Another bloody episode in a school has Americans shaking their heads in disbelief and has brought tears to many eyes.
A lone gunman in Newton, Conn., walked into an elementary school where his mother worked and killed her, along with 20 young children and five adults. Apparently the gunman, who was identified in reports Friday as 24-year-old Ryan Lanza, ended his rampage by turning his gun on himself. Reports also indicated that his girlfriend and a friend were missing, which means there may be more tragedy awaiting discovery.
The basic question is why?
There's reason to believe that he was targeting family and possibly others who were close to him. But taking out his anger and hatred on innocent children who could not have possibly offended him in any way is especially frightening.
No doubt the motives will be scrutinized, much like those of the mass killer last summer in the Aurora, Colo., movie theater. Focus will also be placed on the weapons, how Lanza acquired them and whether he did so legally.
"We've endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years," President Barack Obama said Friday. "And each time I learn the news, I react not as a president, but as anybody else would as a parent. And that was especially true today. I know there's not a parent in America who doesn't feel the same overwhelming grief that I do.
"The majority of those who died today were children -- beautiful, little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old. They had their entire lives ahead of them -- birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own. Among the fallen were also teachers, men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfill their dreams."
That cost -- what America lost with the death of these precious children -- is what we will never know. Could one have grown up to find a cure for a disease that is now incurable? Would another have made a discovery that would have changed the way we look at the universe? Would one have grown up to be president of the United States and guided our country through a crisis still in our future? Would one have become a great artist whose work inspired those who saw it?
Those are questions we'll never know the answers to. As tragic as the deaths of the adults were, the unconciosnable murders of those 20 children hit us even harder. There is no way to make sense of it, other than to acknowledge that some people are depraved and evil enough to commit such heinous acts of violence, acts that will forever scar the children and adults who survived the massacre.
No doubt lawmakers will look for ways to keep something like this from happening again, but we're unsure how any mechanism can prevent evil from being evil.
So, what can we do?
There's prayer for the families that have been devastated, and for those who survived -- hope that they can, at some point, return to some feeling of normalcy.
Those of us with young children can hold them just a little tighter. Every moment is precious.
And we all can try to be better people. We can stop demonizing those whose views don't align with ours, look for common ground and build upon that. We can be more civil. Just as violence can inspire violence, civility can inspire more civility. We can take hateful, hurtful words out of our vocabularies and replace them with words of reason.
Change can come. But it can only come one person at a time. And we can each start at the same place -- looking straight into the mirror.
-- The Albany Herald Editorial Board