We live next door to Newtown, Conn., the small town where a horrible event unfolded last Friday. My oldest son was home sick from school that day, but his younger brother was at his elementary school. As I was working from home and preparing for a number of meetings, I received an alarming email from our school system. It said that they were monitoring the events at the Newtown school but that ours would not be “locked down.”
A quick scan of Twitter confirmed that something terrible had happened in Newtown. At first it seemed that a parent had brought a gun into an elementary school. Then the story changed. A disgruntled employee had been fired and then returned to the school with a gun. But none of these stories turned out to be true. Social media is a good way to connect and communicate, but it can be a lousy way to get the facts straight during an emergency.
Because my son was home, I didn’t want to turn on the TV. So I spent time monitoring the news on The New York Times Web site. Local newspaper Web sites were also essential. Many of the pictures that were published nationally came from photographers from papers like the Newtown Bee.
These news outlets confirmed that worst elementary school shooting in history had happened -- in Connecticut, of all places. Dawn Hochsprung, the school’s principal who was killed, was from my hometown. Like many of the school’s staff members, she acted heroically, getting others out of harm’s way while she put herself into it.
By the time my youngest son arrived home safely from school, the full extent of the tragedy had become clear. There were now dozens of parents that would never get to see their child walk through their front door and ask them about their day.
“I love you,” I told my sons repeatedly that afternoon.
The whirl of news helicopters over our house continued throughout the weekend as members of the press traveled to Newtown to the cover the tragedy. My wife, a social worker, counseled the families of the victims. There will be funerals and many more sad scenes to come this week on television and online.
We cannot bring back the people who were lost on Friday. Mass shootings will now be inexorably linked to my home state of Connecticut. People here are now asking how weapons like the one used in the killing of 20 small children can possibly be legal for civilian use. This country clearly needs to better balance the right to bear arms with the danger posed by guns designed for war. The debate will dominate the media for weeks and months to come and perhaps something good can come out of this horrific act.
For now, though, it’s time to bury our dead, console the families who lost their loved ones, and find some way to move forward.