[Photo: the Newtown Bee]

I think what so many people are struggling with—besides the details of Friday’s events—is an emotional disquiet brought on by trying to understand an event that is ultimately irrational. There is nothing I could hear that would “make sense” of what happened. I think the more we try to understand it, the more we’ll simply get frustrated. I keep hearing and reading things asking, “Why?” and I don’t think we will ever have an answer for that—at least not one that would satisfy me.

I think part of the horror is the age of the victims. When an adult is the target, I find it easier to rationalize some kind of karmic debt that got paid. Everybody has skeletons in their closet; maybe it’s just the universe’s way of evening the score. But when children are involved, there is no way they were capable of maliciousness. It’s impossible that anything they did or didn’t do would make what happened deserved.

Of the hundreds of posts I read Friday, the only ones that didn’t cause me stress were the ones that started: “My thoughts and prayers go out to…” I can’t fathom how people could see yesterday’s events as a good opportunity to discuss politics, gun control or their own personal views. And God help the girl who decided to post about Jersey Shore. I wanted to reach through the screen and slap her. What planet is she living on? (I unfriended her.)

Over the course of the next few weeks, we’ll hear or read more details about what happened and, ultimately, we’ll hear stories about the perpetrator. Unquestionably, there will be a history of some sort of mental disorder, a family issue, perhaps both. So what I’m wondering is: Was he ever offered help? He very well may have been. I can tell you from personal experience that you can’t help someone who refuses to accept it, but I keep hearing reporters asking, “How can we stop this from happening again?” The answer is with us.

When someone asks, “How are you,” do you tell them the truth? When you ask someone the same, do you mean it? What if we all looked out for each other a little more? What if we spent an hour a week not thinking about ourselves and went out of our way for someone else? Let’s face it: We’re a bunch of people who like music made by skinny guys with tattoos who frequently sing in weird registers. Are we really going to change public policy? No. But we can change ourselves and, in so doing, bring up everyone around us.

What if the simple act of reaching out to someone who’s hurting could stop the next incident from happening?

So here's my plea for change: Instead of asking yourself, “Why doesn’t somebody do something about this?” I want you to ask, “Why don’t we do something about this?”

If you cut, drink, abuse drugs or are struggling with depression, anger, hate or some aspect of yourself, let somebody know. And if you know somebody going through something, ask him or her about it. If they are getting worse, tell someone you trust: a parent, a mental health professional at school, a guidance counselor—someone who has the experience and connections to get your friend the help he or she needs. The only thing that gets us through the tough times is letting others help us

And if you’re really cool, approach an administrator at your school and tell them you want to start a group where students can confidentially talk about their issues in a safe place. No matter how much you hate school, odds are there is at least one cool teacher who would want to get involved.

The part that got to me the most was thinking of the time of year, of how these families had already bought gifts for their kids and of how their children won’t be coming home to unwrap them.

At the absolute least, if you’ve read this far, go tell someone you love them today.

Dave Sherman
[email protected]
Twitter: @Gonzopath