I am haunted by this morning’s news of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtoun, Connecticut. I’ve been affected before by news of shootings in schools and public places in the US… but the death of children is especially hard to bear. To know that such innocence and helplessness were gunned down in such a fashion; to know that life so new has been cut so short leaves me breathless with heartache.
I know that all deaths suffered in previous shootings are equally heartrending, equally tragic, equally devastating. But today as a parent, with my baby and my man gone out for a day’s Christmas shopping, I surveyed my house and its clutter of shoe boxes upended by a curious mind… I washed her dishes, packed away her clothes, gathered her books and swept my biscuit-crumbed floor, and I could not get away from thinking of those parents. Of wondering what it must be like, when the noise and panic have finally died down, when the tears have emptied and the funeral event-managed and performed. When the news cycle picks up on another tragedy, when Christmas and New Year have come and gone.
When all is supposed to be normal again. When a new term at school starts. I wonder what it must be like for those parents to sit in their houses, in the absolute stillness, and to know that life has gone out of it.
Arddun is starting childcare in February. Did you know that Tony had recently applied for a posting in Washington D.C.? He didn’t get the position. And irrationally perhaps, I now think that such a blessed break. Because I’m now terrified of America and its inexplicably asinine irresponsible gun laws and its propensity for the occasional loon to walk into a sacred place like an elementary school with a bullet-proof vest and a .223 calibre semi-automatic rifle which his dad probably got from Walmart, along with the week’s groceries and some toothpaste.
But I know it’s just the panic talking. I know it’s unfair to paint America right now with this tainted brush. And cerebrally, I know that a lot more must have been happening in the background before that boy – not yet an adult – walked into that school to gun down his mother, the principal, and young children.
But I cannot understand.
It is so easy to blame God for this. Or at least to ask Him how He could have borne such a thing, how He could have dared to allow it. I know that some Christians tend to whitewash every tribulation and tragedy as God’s will. And I’m going out on a limb here to confess that I am absolutely not one of them. That horrible affair, that act of terrorism, could never have been something that God would have willed. It could never have been something anywhere in the ballpark of His mandate for us to love one another, just as He loves us. It is, rather, the proof of what happens when God is willfully shut out of the equation. He comforts all, He is there at the beginning and at the very end. But He did not want this to happen.
I find it very difficult to pray in times like these, but I’m going to list a bunch of things and people to pray for right here. So feel free to join in, and add your bits if you like.
I’m praying for those who were murdered. I wonder if it had been quick, and I pray that there was as little pain as possible. That it had all happened too fast for them to be filled with the sheer terror and loneliness that comes from having your number unexpectedly called. It is hard to think of them all and to know that they needed their mommy and daddy right that moment. It is hard to think of them crying. But the only thing that even comes close to comforting the heart and mind right now is the conviction that each and every one of them is safe and loved with Christ.
I’m praying for those left behind. For those who will need to find a way to move on. The survivors. The parents. The siblings. The colleagues. The community. The country. The world. But especially the first four groups, because they were right there in the fire, and burns sting for a long, long time. They leave marks. They hurt deep. And even though they have each other, and even though they have God, they will also feel unbearably lonely through lots of it. I pray that they get peace that passes all understanding, even as they grieve deeply.
I’m praying for the country. I know I understand very little about the American constitution, and I’m a Singaporean residing in Australia so what do I know about the love of guns, having not grown up with them? But I pray for fundamental change. Whether that means tightening their gun laws or not, I just pray that as a country, they will be able to move towards (or move back?) to an age where school children and their visitors would not have to go through a security clearance each day to feel safe enough to learn. I pray that Australia and Singapore – two countries I love deeply – will never get to that stage.
I’m praying for the brother of that shooter. Let’s not forget that the media had initially reported him as the shooter – along with name and age, so there goes his privacy, personal security, possible job prospects and social life. Let’s not forget that in one fell swoop, he lost his entire family. He will have to grapple with the concept, the knowledge that his own brother, whom he probably loved, took the lives of their father and mother. He will have to walk the earth with survivor guilt. He will feel loneliness and anger. He will probably feel that he has no right to mourn his loss. But it is a loss – a huge loss. And it is as unfair to him as it was to the parents and families of those children and adults gunned down. As tempting as it is to look at that family and wonder about the parenting skills of the deceased, we have to remember that we don’t know the facts. We may never know all the facts – as much as the media is going to have a field day with this.
And finally, the most difficult bit – the shooter. I pray that I can one day get to the stage of praying for Adam Lanza, instead of wishing him a kind of hell only reserved for those who recklessly murder young children. And it’s wrong to do so, I know. But I am angry, and even a little freaked out. So I pray that I can one day pray for his soul, pray for mercy. Because even though I’m not a murderer, I have sinned constantly and often. And I know I don’t get to cast stones at the end of the day. But for now, I am far too emotional to pray for his soul without adding a few extras that shouldn’t be there. And that’s the truth.
EDIT: This was written earlier in the morning, when news had just unfolded and details were still hazy. Since then, more details have come to light – like the fact that Adam had killed his mother before driving to the school to massacre everyone else. There now doesn’t seem to be any mention of a father. Again, everything is still unfolding so details could still change again. The sentiments above, however, still hold true. It is still a tragedy, and it is still hard to explain away.