The Tragedy Of Newtown

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.

9 comments about "The Tragedy Of Newtown ".
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  1. Anthony Ellertson from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, December 17, 2012 at 11:49 a.m.

    Yes, there should be a debate on guns, but it should go in tandem with two others. The first is the disruption of services for the mentally disabled (a result of our nation's greed). The second is the role of the media in these shootings. How is it that we will spend trillions of dollars to essentially hunt men in caves while our communities suffer for basic services? Services that are needed to help deal with the sick of mind among us.

    Second, the media is equally culpable in this tragedy. Through its reporting practices it creates a sick form of celebrity around the killers. By giving them more attention than the victims it gives their act a meaning which prompts the next evil doer to perpetuate the cycle of violence. I hope to never hear about the facts/name/life of a killer again. The next time this happens (and yes there will be a next time), lets not report on the killer at all. Let's just make him a faceless coward that none will remember. Let's remember the victims instead and learn compassion from their suffering.

    Finally, let's ask ourselves when will America wake up to the fact that is has an addiction to violence and war? The disturbed among us are simply gravitating toward our own collective sickness.

  2. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein, December 17, 2012 at 12:15 p.m.

    I place the blame for these senseless tragedies squarely on the shoulders of the media, our insatiable addiction to which has created a forum for anyone with a grudge and a gun.

  3. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, December 17, 2012 at 1:01 p.m.

    There was a very similar attack in China at almost exactly the same time. 22 children were injured there, some seriously, but none died. This was because the attacker, who was probably mentally disturbed, had a knife instead of several guns.

  4. Matt Straz from Namely, December 17, 2012 at 1:25 p.m.

    Of course there are many ways to hurt people but semi automatic weapons are purpose built for such things. This would seem to be a good example of how a slight change in policy can lead to improvement in the situation:

    "In Australia in 1996, a mass killing of 35 people galvanized the nation’s conservative prime minister to ban certain rapid-fire long guns. The “national firearms agreement,” as it was known, led to the buyback of 650,000 guns and to tighter rules for licensing and safe storage of those remaining in public hands.

    The law did not end gun ownership in Australia. It reduced the number of firearms in private hands by one-fifth, and they were the kinds most likely to be used in mass shootings.

    In the 18 years before the law, Australia suffered 13 mass shootings — but not one in the 14 years after the law took full effect. The murder rate with firearms has dropped by more than 40 percent, according to data compiled by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, and the suicide rate with firearms has dropped by more than half. "

  5. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, December 17, 2012 at 2:03 p.m.

    Who profits from the paranoia infestation in the minds of people that they need military hardware in their immediate possession ? or guns on every person ? Who thinks everyone who owns a gun is proficient enough to handle it in a desperate situation when those trained are not ? Who profits from denying the mental health facilities and doctors to the people who need it most and insurance is non-existant and co-pays are out of bounds for most people ? Who is going to pay ? Freedom is not free.

  6. Robert Repas from Machine Design Magazine, December 18, 2012 at 12:24 p.m.

    Matt, I understand where you are coming from, but I think your blog was written before more facts appeared. Lanza used only hand guns. While a military type weapon was found in his car, it was not used in the attack. The guns belonged to his mother, who was also thought killed by her son. Most likely they were kept in a closet or dresser, not a secured gun cabinet. I agree, we need to keep these weapons out of the hands of people without the ability to discern right from wrong, but that isn't everyone. If the guns were locked away properly, then Lanza would not have had access for that means of attack. I'm afraid we will never know the why of this attack, and that's something I would really like to know. Because that's what we need to address overall. But that's going to be a tough's so much simpler to ban guns. It's about time we start tackling the tough problems directly without the band-aid fix of simple solutions, because that fixes nothing.

  7. Matt Straz from Namely, December 19, 2012 at 4:19 p.m.

    Robert I'm sorry but you are wrong. According to the Connecticut State Police report: "The primary weapon used in the attack was a "Bushmaster AR-15 assault-type weapon," said Connecticut State Police Lt. Paul Vance. Making these weapons illegal for citizens to carry and own would make it much more difficult to kill so many people at once.

  8. George Linzer from Potomac River Media, December 21, 2012 at 11:47 a.m.

    My sister and her family live in Newtown, where she teaches in a different elementary school. They are all ok, but incredibly shaken that this happened in a place that seemed so community-centered that I used to kid my sister about living in Stepfordville. On the subject of guns, there really is little left to discuss. The question is not if we should implement stricter gun controls, but what form they take and how do we do it. For the defenders of the Second Amendment, it is important to remember what its writers envisioned when they drafted it - scores of militia loading and reloading their single shot muskets in defense of their rights, not lone individuals spraying their military-grade ammo across the bodies of innocent children and their adult guardians.

  9. John Watkins from Watcom, December 25, 2012 at 3:57 p.m.

    To me the media needs to slow down when covering this kind of event. We didn`t get the correct facts from the start. The need to step back from thisand not try to be first, try to be correct.

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