Gloria Fletcher: Sandy Hook and America's response

Published: Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 11:50 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 11:50 a.m.

The violent deaths of 20 children and seven adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, this past week has left us all stunned. It’s an event of such horribly wrongful death, personal injury and an assault on our senses that words do not begin to describe its impact.

We’re saddened at the horrific loss of life, especially of such young innocents. We’re overwhelmed at the sadness parents and witnesses are left to cope with; even the shooter’s family must cope with the death he wrought on strangers; and his apparent murder of his mother.

We’re struggling to understand how this happened, and how we as a society may have intervened.

Yet, we’re moved by the heroics, too. The principal who died while charging at the shooter in an effort to stop him. The teacher who hid her children, lied in telling the shooter they were not in the classroom but in the gym; and who was shot dead. The teachers who followed their emergency preparedness plans, hid their kids, barricaded the classroom doors, and maintained what order they could until first responders arrived and found the shooter dead.

Even the school system seemed to do much right in anticipation of violence against its facilities. Several years ago, Sandy Hook had a surveillance camera and intercom installed for visitors to request entry before being “buzzed in” and allowed access to the premises. The alleged shooter instead found entry by shooting out a nearby window and climbing through.

Of course, this wasn’t the first event of its kind. “Sandy Hook” joins such names as Columbine, Virginia Tech, even the massacre at the University of Texas in 1966. Like some of the others, this episode has re-kindled the debate on gun rights, the treatment of mental illness, and the numbing effects of violent media, video games and even the persistent retelling of the tale on TV and in the news media on individuals. It even raises questions about the roles we, as a people and our government, can and should play in all of this.

Since the killer shot himself before authorities could apprehend him, we may never know causative or contributing factors that led him to perpetrate such a heinous crime against humanity.

So for now, we’re left to wade through the numbness of those 20 young faces we see on television and the Internet, the adults who died noble heroes’ deaths, and how we can prevent the next Columbine, Virginia Tech, or now, Sandy Hook Elementary.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families who’ve lost loved ones, the survivors and first responders who witnessed the unspeakable scenes, and to society left to try to understand how this happened – and how we may prevent the next such event from happening in the future.

Gloria Fletcher

Vice President

Florida’s Children First.


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