Discussing The Newtown Tragedy With My Children

Before I begin, I must apologize in advance. Those of you who normally read my blog for happy, go-lucky stories, will not find one here today. It breaks The Scribe’s heart to have to discuss this story, but I feel I must. Out of respect for the families who have lost a loved one, no photographs accompany it. And so…

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As the story unfolded yesterday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, I could not hold back the tears.

Twenty-seven people were dead; 20 of them were innocent children.

A shooter, after killing his own mother by shooting her in the face, drove to the school where she was allegedly a teacher, killed the principal and the school psychiatrist, and then hunted down two classrooms of children that his mother allegedly taught. Just writing this is horrifying. I can’t imagine the panic, fear, and disbelief that adults, police, and firefighters had to endure while trying to get children out of the school and to safety.

And then, of course, there were the parents whose children perished inside the school.

When I talked to my kids about it last night—allowing them to watch some of the coverage as it unfolded—I only had one message to share with them: Yes. There is evil in the world. And sometimes you can’t see it coming.

A quiet little town in Connecticut—a town where our cousins Gary, Angela, Erica, and Marissa live—will never be the same. One deranged, evil person can change a town and affect the lives of hundreds, thousands, or more people 11 days before Christmas. And perhaps that’s why I couldn’t stop watching last night. I pictured people our cousins knew mourning the loss of a child, a principal, a teacher, a sister, a brother, or a friend.

In an interview with one of the very young children, the child described how the teachers closed the blinds and told everyone to get down and locked the door “to keep the animal out.” The beautiful, naivete of children. He was innocently calling the madman an animal.

And he was right.

In that vein, that animal was a coward. Killing innocent children for the sake of … what? None of them deserved to die. None of them deserved the hand that was dealt yesterday. And so we find ourselves asking why? People want answers. Over and over on the news last night, the one question that kept being asked was, what was the motive?

Who cares about the killer’s motive? Nothing can justify what occurred; it won’t bring anyone back. Children are dead. The principal, who would dress up in costumes and tried to make learning fun, lost her life doing her job. The school psychiatrist was months away from retirement. It’s nonsensical. No one can make me understand. There simply is no justification that will ease the pain for anyone.

And so we are left shaking our heads, but needing to make sense of it in order to communicate with our own children.

Unfortunately, I’m left with only this to tell my children: I cannot lie to you. I don’t know why this happened, and I certainly can’t explain it to you.

It’s simply inexplicable.


  • Sharon Blessing

    Steph, thanks for your words…I can think of nothing else and I’ve cried so many tears for people I don’t know. Somehow, this is affecting me more than any other tragedy ever has, maybe because we send our kids each day to school and because I used to teach First grade…Anyway, thanks for your blog and for your thoughts…

  • Seb

    My first ever job on a newspaper was with the Danbury News-Times, and Newtown was on my beat, just about 10 miles down the road.

    I don’t think arguments about moral equivalency can really offer any answers, any insight here. That’s the frustrating thing. People can say we need more help for the mentally ill, but this man had no network that would support him in getting any help. We can repeal the second amendment, but the sheer volume of guns out there won’t stem incidents like this and if we try outlawing the guns and taking them back by force, there’ll be a Waco every day for the next 50 years. We can try and stop crazy people from buying guns – in this case that would have done no good as the guns weren’t even his – but again, with such a flood of guns out there, you’ll never stop them getting into the hands of crazy people, kids, gangbangers or white supremacist neighborhood watchmen in Florida and how many bodies do you want to put on trying to stop it?

    We can, however, look at the response to and from the media – first amendment issues not withstanding, there has to be some way to promote a mutually responsible code for journalists – establish media cordons, issue official statements and, for the love of lucy, disabuse parents of the notion that it is okay for their kids to be interviewed by Fox news. We need to de-empahsize the mystery of the killer and emphasize the effort to recover. Also, tax the living daylights out of Domestic and imported weapons and ammunition. Instruct federal prosecutors to take and interest in any gun related crime and apply a 5 year federal sentence on top of the state/local sentence for anyone who even suggests they have a gun while committing a crime, Use the new gun tax to build more prisons for the sumbitches.

    Your message is right and it is much the same as I told my girls. The world isn’t a bad place. The world is a good good place, and people are vastly and on the whole, good.But there are also people who are damaged and broken – and now and then, they do damaged and broken things.

    Or so I think…

    • Steph's Scribe/Stephanie Verni

      I still think about those poor children and what their last minutes on the earth must have been like for them, much like I think about my husband’s cousin, Kenny, and all his colleagues after the plane went into the Twin Towers and his office was above it. None of them made it out. Tragedy strikes at the heart and soul of us, and sometimes all we can do is shake our heads…and pray.

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