Again. It’s happened again. And because of my experience at Virginia Tech, once again I have to find a way to manage what I know about this kind of violence, knowledge I never wanted and knowledge I resent having. What I know is this:
Right now, scores of people are wandering in and around Sandy Hook Elementary School. Some have been called there because they have a job to do. Some have been drawn there because they seek solace in others who are grieving. There are tears — many, many tears — and there are people, some of them strangers, who are grasping one another, hugging because they hope that simple act might somehow stave off the crushing reality they are faced with. And sometimes it does. Others are alone, their faces cloaked in blank expressions because they can find no emotion to capture what his happening in their heads and in their hearts. Makeshift memorials — candles, flowers, photographs — are appearing at the school and the fire station and the town offices.
Parents are there, too, and by now, if they haven’t been reunited with their children, they fear the worst. More than the worst. They are being tended to by counselors and others but the wait is still unbearable. And the identities of the victims — their children likely among them — will not be released for some time because there are so many and the coroner’s offices cannot process them quickly for fear of making a terrible, terrible mistake. And so the survivors must wait.
Many men and women are in uniform or in blue windbreakers with bright yellow letters across the back — FBI, ATF, State Police. They are huddling in groups in corners, grim-faced and focused, whispering into radios and phones. Other uniformed men and women have cordoned off the school — now a crime scene — and are fending off the curious and the concerned and the grief-stricken.
All around the school, the streets are clogged with vehicles — hulking black SUVs, police cruisers, unmarked Ford sedans, and an array of oversized vans emblazoned with network and local station logos, each with a satellite antenna craning up into the darkening sky. Throughout the town, reporters are doing stand-ups under bright camera lights, staking out spots with the most dramatically lit views of the school in the background and parading whoever they can find that is willing to talk in front of the camera — survivors, parents, officials, townspeople … anyone.
A black hole is forming over Newtown right now. At its center is a small elementary school, more than two dozen lost souls, and an act of unspeakable horror. In the days and weeks and months ahead, we — all of us — will be drawn to it, mainly because we will want explanations. Some will seek them because they are paid to sort this sort of thing out. Some will seek them because their job is to investigate and share what they discover with us. Some, and I am regrettably among this number, are seeking what we must know we will never find — some answer that goes beyond how far we have fallen.