Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

December 16, 2012

HOPKINS: Can't make sense of the senseless

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Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — “I just want to go home and hug my kids.”

I overheard one of our salespeople say that Friday afternoon. Those 10 words, I’m sure, were uttered millions of times by parents across the U.S., Canada, the world two days ago as we watched what was unfolding in Newtown, Conn.

A nation continues to mourn some 48 hours after Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School and gunned down 26 people; six adults and 20 children, none of whom were older than 7 years old. These events are always shocking, but there’s an added sense of sadness and shock when one considers the ages of most of the dead.

They were young children. Children who were caught up in the magical excitement that is Christmas and Santa Claus. Children who were in their first year of school and having new worlds opened up to them. Children who were looking forward to the weekend and doing things with their parents and siblings.

Now, these 20 little angels — and six adults who taught and protected them — are gone. Their families are shattered and their parents are coping with the sudden loss of a child and have to think about planning funerals.

Caskets shouldn’t have to be built so small.

It’s not worth asking the question “Why” because, quite frankly, we don’t know and very likely never will. Even if a note was left behind, I don’t think it will tell us why Lanza did this. There might be an explanation, but will it really answer why he targeted 6- and 7-year-olds? Theories will be developed, but because Lanza took his own life to complete the carnage we’ll never know for sure. You can’t make sense of the senseless.

Another question runs something like this: What can be done to prevent this in the future? I’m not sure there is a clear cut answer for this, either. There likely isn’t a way to prevent mass slaughter from happening ever again.

Tighter gun control is the obvious choice for many. I can’t agree. Most gun owners are law-abiding. Most people who drive a car are law-abiding as well, but that doesn’t stop others from driving drunk and killing a skateboarder or child on a bike. Instead of blaming the instrument, blame the person.

A person intent on breaking the law is not going to be deterred by the laws that try to prevent him from running afoul. If he’s determined, he can just as easily build a bomb, or drive a car through a crowded plaza at lunch time.

Perhaps something we can do is become more aware of the people around us. Does a colleague or friend seem to be irritable, angry or withdrawn? Why? Chat him up. Sometimes we’re so absorbed with our own lives that we miss the bigger picture.

Simply talking to people might be enough to prevent a few tragic situations; not by deterring someone from doing something heinous, but by listening we may hear enough to raise a red flag. We can report what we’ve heard. Perhaps that person will be evaluated or will fall under the watchful eyes of law enforcement.

Far-fetched? Perhaps, but then again maybe not. We have to be willing to try, and it appears there are enough people willing to advocate for changes that will make us safer. Why not try something different than going for the knee-jerk reaction?

In the mean time, my thoughts and prayers are with the people of Newtown, Conn. They have witnessed an evil I can only imagine — and I’m sure it’s far worse than what I’ve conjured up.

I pray that one day they will find happiness again. I pray that they have the resources available to help them through this most difficult time. I pray that there won’t be a next time, and I pray that if the opportunity arises I will recognize a troubled person and find a way to get him the help he needs.

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I want to thank US&J reporters Joe Olenick and Bill Wolcott for their contributions to our “local reaction” story published in Saturday’s paper. They were supposed to have been credited at the end of the story, but I was the only one who received a byline, probably because of space considerations. Their contributions helped make the story complete.

John J. Hopkins is the managing editor of the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal. His column appears on Sundays. Contact Mr. Hopkins at john.hopkins@lockportjournal.com.