A response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting

“It was the line that got me, in the end”

Micah Osler, print news editor

It was the line that got me, in the end.

The headline had lodged in my mind with horror, beyond a doubt, but learned horror, an aghast disbelief that had been pulled out of its drawer far too many times in the last year or so and now felt almost regular to remove (and that in itself was worthy of fright). I had read and muttered “Dear God” to myself and wondered how anybody could do something so depraved, but something in my mind didn’t quite grasp the tragedy until I saw the line.

That line of children walking out of school in the now-famous first photograph from Sandy Hook Elementary. The children at the front of the line, where we can see their faces, are crying, but still wear the distinct looks of people who have seen something we were never meant to see – aghast is close to the word, if there is even a word for how you look after watching your world die – as police officers shuffle them along.

They all stand in a line, hands grasping the shoulders of the child in front of them. I broke down when I saw that picture, because I have stood in those lines before, and so have my brothers, and so have my parents, and so have you and so has every single person you or I have ever loved or cared about in the world.

We have all stood in those lines, linked by arms, as teachers led us out of the school for a fire drill or into the basement for a tornado drill. We all spent our childhoods in those lines, walking from class to class or on our way in from recess. There are scant thing more singular to elementary school, to childhood, to innocence, than walking in a line. I look at the faces of the children and I see my youngest brother’s face and the faces of my cousins on them all, and I break down again.

These are the ones who lived. Those who died were the same – not a child among them was older than seven.

When a twentysomething dies, we say that they had their whole life ahead of them. At least the twentysomething had time to start a life. These children had their lives stolen. We can talk all we want about the doctor and lawyers and engineers and teachers those children could have grown up to be, and that’s important, but they never even got the chance to be people, to try this thing that we call life.

After 9/11, we knew that the point of the attack had been to strike fear into all of us – that was why it was called terrorism, after all. The only way we could come out winning was to refuse to give the terrorists even that – to live without fear.

There is no such answer here. There can be no meaning behind killing the innocent of innocents save a hatred of everything that makes mankind good. Some day later we can search for an answer, but I doubt one will ever come, that anything will ever come, from this.

For now, though, I weep for stolen lives.