On the morning of Friday, December 14, 2012, a lone gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Among the 27 victims that died at his hand that day, 20 were young children. As yet no motive for the slaughter has been identified.
Despite the myriad words, there are no words — no words to describe the loss or the grief.
How does one small community shoulder 20 small caskets at one time?
How do 5- and 6-year-olds step over and around the bleeding bodies of their playmates as they are marched out from a place they never considered to be anything but safe? The media reported that the children were told to close their eyes as they were led out; but which is the greater horror: the copper-penny smell of newly-spilled blood in sightless nostrils; or seeing the small corpses strewn about, helter-skelter?
While seated around the table near the fireplace at our holiday office party, co-workers stroked their smartphone screens, searching for updates. One of the women received text messages from her husband, who had been deployed to the scene. Periodically, someone would rise and momentarily disappear, only to return with the latest news from the big-screen TV above the bar. We consumed our food and drink without appetite. “Don’t think about it,” someone said.
We sang a few songs, a couple of the old favorites. I struggled to recall the words; somehow the notes failed me. After dessert I rose to take my leave. Already it was dark outside.
That evening we watched the news camera footage. Only the images spoke. Many words were uttered, but they made no sense. Only the pictures spoke, and they left us dumb.