CLEVELAND - As I write these words about children in their elementary school years gunned down in their classrooms, my eyes fill with tears. I cry for the young victims who were so young, they had no understanding of what was happening to them as a gunman opened fire.
Of the innocent among us, certainly, elementary school children are at the top of the list. They are so young, they have no real concept of violence of of the underside of life. Yet the bullets that struck their small bodies sapped the life out of them. The gunman came firing at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. He was a 20-year-old killer armed with two handguns who then turned the gun on himself, committing suicide.
However, before he took his last breath, more than two dozen others stopped breathing, including his mother who worked at the school but was killed earlier in her home. So once again, we huddle ourselves together in front of our television screens for the news reports as we ask ourselves the question of how could this have happened?
As I write these words, I have moments where my mind races back over the decades to the time of my own kindergarten class. As my mother walked me to the school, she released my hand, putting it into the grasp of the first school teacher I knew. On that day, I knew nothing of violence in the world. My mother had no fears of a gunman who might come running into our big-city elementary school.
However, the times have changed because so much of the fabric of our society has changed. Little by little, we have watched so much of what we knew to be good to become frayed around the edges. If the knitted sweater I wore to school during those early days of my education developed a tear, parts of it could unravel. A pull on the dangling thread and more of the garment would unravel in a zigzag fashion. So much of our society is going the way of a sweaters's tear.
I think of the horror the Sandy Hook Elementary School children and their teachers must have felt when the gunman came running. Now parents are faced with the unimaginable hurt of burying children so young, they could not even spell the word violence, let alone understand it.
Adults can spell the word because is constantly before us in newspaper, website and magazine headlines. We hear the word almost daily in our television and radio newscasts. Still, we cannot understand how such tragedy could happen and continue to happen.
Only a few hours after the mass shooting in Connecticut, a grief counselor told me such tragedy, sadly, is hitting us too often. Still, each time, emotionally, it hits like a sledgehammer. We never become immune to the horror of it, yet the violence has found a way to get its foot into the door of our daily lives. The dead have barely been buried from a mass shooting somewhere in the United States before another gunman comes running.
This time, he came running through an elementary school where the oldest students were in the fourth grade. Now those students, teachers and other staff members who survived must go through strong counseling to help them through the pain of what they saw, heard and felt. Now, parents of the living wonder if there is anyplace which is safe for the children and the rest of us.
The sad fact is there is no place that is guaranteed safe. The danger zone has grown all around us. I will let the experts of our society better explain why that has happened. I only know the glee I felt going to my first day in kindergarten many decades ago and how my mother, with full confidence, placed my 5-year-old fingers into the warm hand of the teacher.
She led me into a room filled with crayons, alphabet blocks and sheets of construction paper and I found a peace and a happiness. Those are the only items with which school children of that age should be concerned. I am certain the children at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., had similar items at their desks.
In that part of Connecticut, the sun was bright in the late autumn morning. It probably slanted through the windows and fell on the desks filled with crayons, construction paper and tiny fingers. Their teacher probably gave them help in accomplishing their tasks for the day. The room was filled with love, peace and the smell of crayons. Until the gunman came running.
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- Photos from the scene: http://on.wews.com/UGu0fZ
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- Parents: How to help kids deal with tragedy: http://on.wews.com/TiA1Qr