Yesterday in Newton, Connecticut, 20-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary.
The majority of the victims were between the ages of six and seven years old.
No longer an anomaly, the mass shooting transfixed the nation in what’s become an achingly familiar pattern of disbelief and grief.
President Obama released his comments via the White House in response to it.
“I know there is not a parent in America who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do,” a teary-eyed President Obama said hours after the shooting.
These “beautiful little children,” he said, “had their entire lives ahead of them: birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.” He paused again when he said he was going to hug his own children a little tighter that night, a vow personal and universal.
In his emotional appearance, Obama alluded to taking preventive measures against these killings saying, “Those neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children. And we are going to have to come together to take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”
As dusk fell Friday, an impromptu candlelight vigil formed outside the White House in memorandum to the young victims.
Celebrities within the entertainment industry like Rihanna, Solange Knowles, Lil’ Kim, Waka Flocka Flame, and Styles P shared their reactions via Twitter as well.
Lanza opened fired on the school children after killing his mother, Nancy Lanza at her home. Afterwards around 9:30 am, he took three of her guns, drove her car to the elementary school, forced his way inside, and opened fire on his innocent victims. The weapons included two semiautomatic pistols, a Glock and a Sig Sauer, and a .223-caliber Bushmaster rifle.
The Chicago Tribune reported:
A custodian ran through the halls, warning of a gunman, and someone switched on the intercom, perhaps saving many lives by letting them hear the chaos in the school office, a teacher said. Teachers locked their doors and ordered children to huddle in a corner, duck under their desks or hide in closets as shots reverberated through the building.
Among those killed was the school’s well-liked principal, Dawn Hochsprung. Town officials said she died while lunging at the gunman in an attempt to overtake him. A woman who worked at the school was wounded.
Maryann Jacob, a clerk in the school library, was in there with 18 fourth-graders when they heard a commotion and gunfire outside the room. She had the youngsters crawl into a storage room, and they locked the door and barricaded it with a file cabinet. There happened to be materials for coloring, “so we set them up with paper and crayons.”
After what she guessed was about an hour, officers came to the door and knocked, but those inside couldn’t be sure it was the police.
After he killed his victims, Lanza committed suicide.
Investigators suspect he suffered from a personality disorder and confirmed he lived with his mother. But it hasn’t been revealed if he was receiving proper medical and psychological treatments for his condition.
Investigators are trying to learn more about Lanza by questioning his older brother, Ryan Lanza who is not believed to have been involved in the rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary. Police have yet to shed light on the motive for the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.
The Chicago Tribune had this to say about the shooter:
Catherine Urso, of Newtown, said her college-age son knew the killer. “He just said he was very thin, very remote and was one of the goths,” she said.
Lanza attended Newtown High School, and several news clippings from recent years mention his name among the honor roll students.
Joshua Milas, who graduated from Newtown High in 2009 and belonged to the school technology club with him, said that Lanza was generally a happy person but that he hadn’t seen him in a few years.
“We would hang out, and he was a good kid. He was smart,” Joshua Milas said. “He was probably one of the smartest kids I know. He was probably a genius.”
The images of toddler survivors seeping into neighboring fields or being led to safety with hands on each other’s shoulders will forever be seared into the nation’s conscious.
Witnesses reported hearing children plea, “I want to go home.”
Eerily reminiscent of the Columbine school shooting that occurred in 1999 in Colorado and the Virginia Tech University slayings, this tragedy is a series of mass killings that have become part of America’s consciousness including the Aurora, Colorado movie theater massacre in July and the Portland, Oregon mall shooting earlier this week.
What’s strikingly different is the age of these victims. They’re are in fact under the age of 12 years old.
“The disparity, the gap in age between the children (and their killer), their innocence — taking out little kids, who could not defend themselves for anything?” asked Donna Decker, a professor at Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire, who coincidentally finished her last class of the semester on school shootings as the carnage at Sandy Hook began.
“That disparity in power” made these killings even more horrific, she said. “It is just a blatant and disgusting display of inequity, and it is so inhumane on so many levels.”
Her class was entitled, “Intentional Venom: Making Meaning of School Shootings.”
In her last class Friday morning, Decker said, “we had discussed how we started the course 15 weeks ago with many, many questions, and that we had ended it with many more questions.”
It was a despairing session, she said, raising questions about whether “we could get on top of this.”
The question must be asked: What is causing people to unleash such blind, inhumane rage on others? Is society to blame? Or, were these gunmen always disturbed and failed to receive proper medical care?
“We all as human beings are primed to judge the safety and risk of a situation, based on our emotions and our experiences,” said Dewey Cornell, a clinical psychologist and education professor at the University of Virginia, who has studied school shootings. “Seeing something like this and thinking about something like this is bound to make us get a sense of danger about schools, which we know, scientifically and objectively, is not warranted.”
He said he wonders whether the killings of little children would awaken people to his belief that “we don’t have adequate mental health services for people showing indications of violence. We have a resource problem. We have allowed public mental health to fragment and decay, and we pay for it.”
Although a series of school shootings have appeared in the media within the past years, conflicting statistics reveal that deaths from school shootings have been down since the 1990s.
The names of the victims have yet to be revealed.
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