The news of the terrible shooting and the death of so many in Newtown, Connecticut, has shocked people everywhere. As parents, we find the news particularly appalling, wondering how any parent can bear such a loss. It looks — after several shootings of children in America — that gun control is back on the political agenda there in a way that it hasn’t been for a long time.
Stories like this leave us all with a sense of helplessness. They dredge up memories of Dunblane and prompt us to ask ourselves: Are things worse than ever before? Is there something about our time that gives rise to this behaviour by a few disturbed individuals? Can we as a group or society stop them? Is it possible to spot the people who will become perpetrators before they reach their breaking point, so they don’t hurt others or themselves?
I’ve been astonished at the dignity and composure of the families and the community in Newtown. The stories of bravery and sacrifice from the teachers and administrators at the school, the quick thinking by staff to protect the children, the little boy who told his teacher not to worry because “I know karate” — reading about it has been overwhelming at times.
America and the wider world will be doing some soul-searching on the issues this tragedy brings up: gun control, mental health support, social media, inaccurate news. Parents will trade suggestions on how to tell their children what’s happened.
In the meantime, I’ve been contemplating and taking solace in a quote an American friend shared on Facebook (that social media, it’s a part of our lives now). It quotes Mr Rogers, one of America’s most famous children’s TV presenters and one known for his gentle manner and life-affirming messages: