I grieve as everyone does now for the parents who lost their young children in the tragic shooting in Connecticut. My heart aches for the families of the heroic staff of Sandy Hook Elementary School who lost their lives protecting their students. I cannot even imagine the devastating pain that that these parents must feel -- especially during the holiday season. They sent their children to school in the morning with the usual, "Don't forget to take your lunch," only to hear later that afternoon that they will never wipe pancake crumbs off of their faces, or take a tissue to their nose. They will never again tuck them into bed at night or smell shampoo in their hair. Their pain must be overwhelming, unimaginable, inconsolable. I cannot begin to fathom the depth of terror felt by the helpless children and their teachers.
I am also deeply troubled that there are accusations that this horrible crime was committed because of Adam Lanza's diagnosis of Asperger's. Quirky kids who lack in social graces, descriptive of the vast majority of kids with Asperger's, do not become killers! There is something obviously more to be uncovered.
Clearly there were many factors that led to this tragedy. Through the various news articles that I have been reading this weekend, it is apparent that Adam Lanza suffered from isolation, aloneness, developmental challenges, and was deeply disturbed. In a New York Times article, he was described by classmates as 'being different -- keeping to himself, fidgeting, and very quiet." And that in high school, he seemed to "disappear." "Did Adam receive any intervention?" I want to ask in hindsight. Did a counselor, a teacher, a friend take notice of his aloneness and reach out to him in middle school, high school? Why was he allowed to "disappear?"
My Facebook page is flooded with comments and questions. A friend and colleague who has autism responds: "He was hurt, in fear, and in pain and anger. It is not the brain which engaged this violent action. It was his perception that he was not loved or loveable. No one of any neurology or physiology will EVER take a gun unless there is a predisposing condition." Another parent posts, "My poor son said, "just because I have autism does not mean I'm a killer."
Why blame Asperger's? Perhaps we want to place blame on something so that we can try to make some sense of senselessness. It's understandable that people may want to fill the vacuum of helplessness with quick answers. But to blame children and people with Asperger's would only be adding to the tragedy. What else was going on?
The New York Times article opens with, "Nancy Lanza loved guns, and often took her sons to one of the shooting ranges here in the suburbs northeast of New York City, where there is an active community of gun enthusiasts, her friends said. At a local bar, she sometimes talked about her gun collection." A bar mate commented in the article that he felt that she distanced herself from others because of her involvement with her seriously challenged son and that she handled the situation with grace. The same New York Times article closed with, a family member who tries to make sense out of it saying, "I wish somebody had seen it coming."
Perhaps I'm missing something but how could someone not see it coming? Reading article after article, I cannot help but to ask: Why did a mother with a severely emotionally disturbed son have guns in the house? Was this a ticking time bomb ready to explode? There is so much wrong with all of the news I am hearing. All of these neighbors, bar mates, and colleagues knew of Ms. Lanza's fascination with guns. Like the eccentric grizzly bear enthusiast, Timothy Treadwell, who was eventually devoured by his fascinating beasts, M.s Lanza was killed by the very weapons with which she was so enamored. Couldn't someone see that something was wrong with this picture? I also read that the father hadn't seen his son in eight years. Adam Lanza may have felt this pain. There are many unanswered questions that require more conscious thought and less leaps in logic.
Perhaps other members of the community are now blaming themselves, asking why they were not the ones to intervene? Did their inner voice yell that there was something wrong here? If people knew that Adam was isolated and alone, did anyone reach out to him?
And now, within our own grief and fear, so many of us feel helpless. What can we do to ease our own helplessness over this situation? When we hear of a natural disaster such as Hurricane Sandy, there is something to do. We can fly cross-country and actively participate in the clean up. We can send food, blankets, and necessary items to the victims. We can raise funds and send cash to relief programs. But what can we do in the wake of this horrendous tragedy? My email and Facebook received pleas for gun control, for better mental health facilities, and petitions to sign. We know we must do something with this pain, this feeling of helplessness, but what?
We are in the winter months. The darkest times of the year. Almost every major religion has a holiday around this time. These holidays involve light and candles. For in the darkest of times, one candle can light the darkness. In the dark aftermath of this tragedy, we must kindle that light and love more.
We can pray for the parents, the families, and the first responders of these poor victims. We can surround these people with love and compassion. We can be inspired by the heroic acts of the principal, staff, and other students. We can hold our children closer.
Can we take solace in knowing that we can prevent such a tragedy from ever reoccurring? Unfortunately, we cannot. What can we do is step in when we feel something is not quite right. To never let an 'isolated' loner be an isolated loner. We can make sure he gets the proper supports. We can contact authorities if we are concerned about 'high strung' individuals boasting about their gun collection while also raising a 'troubled teen.' We must be on the alert for those who are on the outside and be willing to be that one person who sees that person for who they are -- not their 'differentness' but their humanity. No, autism did not cause this horrific crime. Too many people accepting unacceptable behavior from adults did.
How else can we kindle this light? We must send loving prayers of healing to the grieving families in Connecticut. And more we must love our children, our dear ones more. For me, every time I look at my son, I love him as if it is the first time I met him and the last time I will ever see him. For truly we all never know.
Let this be a time to love more, to put more love and light into the world, to smile at that awkward, gawky kid, to reach out to someone who you might otherwise think weird or different. You may save a life. Or the lives of 26.
Many blessings. May the One who comforts all mourners bring comfort to the families of Newtown, Conn. And may the blessed children and staff of Sandy Hook Elementary school rest in peace.