Sunday, December 16, 2012

The heavy heart

My original intent today was to write about a childhood Christmas memory, particularly about selecting and then decorating a tree. As a child, those were awesome days for me, and awesome times.

But I can't seem to shake the horror of Newtown, Connecticut.

Of the mass shootings in my lifetime — the first one I can remember is the shooting spree from the clock tower on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin in 1966, in which 14 people were killed (among them the shooter's mother and his wife) and 32 were wounded — the slaughter in Connecticut seems most grievous and most heinous to me.

This is no doubt because of the 26 people killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, 20 of them were first graders, 6 and 7 years old, all with multiple gunshot wounds. Somehow, to my mind, this transcends Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora — as if it were even possible to raise the bar on senseless horror.

But, geez. Kids. Kids at Christmastime. Their time.

We're learning that many of the teachers at this school performed heroically, perhaps saving untold scores of young lives. And that is wonderful, and amazing, and a triumph of human spirit, until I realize that teachers should not be heroes in the soldierly sense. I want them to be my heroes in the professional sense. Dodging bullets should not be in the job description.

So my heart is particularly heavy. I'm glued to the television news until I can't stand anymore, walk away for a little bit, then come running back for more to fill my information vacuum. I don't think it's a ghoulish voyeurism that motivates me here — I think it's more a quest to try to understand why. Why. Why.

The answer most likely will not come from television. It might even be unanswerable, I don't know.

So I'll continue to shed the unchecked occasional tear, swallow hard my emotions and try to balance the heart that weighs heavy on my soul.

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