Monday, December 17, 2012

The Newtown Shooting: The Sorrow and the Media

This morning, as usual, I turned on the news as I prepared to face the day. 

This day, however, I was hoping for more than the current temperature and traffic report. I was hoping for inspiration for my column since I’d lurked at the computer for hours yesterday yet written nothing.

The morning show I prefer, on CBS, is the more serious of the three major network's daily offerings--not because I'm serious but because if I want tabloid crap (and I often do), I'll watch the likes of Inside Edition. But, if I want actual news, I try to find it despite how tricky that has become.

The two female anchors were seated in high director's chairs, all bundled up---exactly like when covering the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Behind them, a line-up of tents and canopies erected by the army of media has encamped to provide the latest information of the horrific events in Newtown. Today that will include the first two funerals slated to occur later.

Great idea, media! What better way to elevate the name of a twisted killer to universal notoriety and make it irresistible to others (and we all know, there are others) to commit similar crimes! Why not provide a pipeline to infamy by endlessly pumping the shooter’s photos and pathetic life story out to the public? When did you all lose your minds, your dignity and your self-control?

Some may defend this blitz, saying that the more focus put on Newtown’s misery, the better for the reinvigorated arguments about gun legislation. Others will claim that the public has the right to not only every new development but also be privy to every expression of grief, sorrow and despair. I say that a welcoming environment for the next lunatic is being fertilized.

The reporters I know from my years of addictive TV viewing (including the news) are more affected than I've ever seen them. Many are parents, I’m sure, and like our president whose unmistakable sincerity has given him one of his finest hours, the nightmare of last Friday feels very personal.

This week's column was going to be about Christmas. I was going to recount how hilarious it was when I ran out of tape while wrapping gifts. Or maybe I'd aim for your sentimental side by dragging out another holiday memory from my well of anecdotes but, not surprisingly, funny is gone. Even sentiment is shattered. 

Christmas, itself, is in question while sanity has certainly taken a powder—both in the nature of the actual events of last Friday as well as in the fact that it’s being covered like a goddam holiday parade.

I am not going to discuss gun legislation, mental illness or Nancy Lanza's questionable parenting but as I write this, it feels like the Newtown tragedy happened well over a week ago. Was it just three days ago? Is it really possible that I am reading the names of 26 souls who were gunned down in a town in which I shop, meet friends for lunch, have sat on sunny baseball fields to watch my children play against yours?

As I look at the photographs of those killed, I can only think "This is where their story stops." But, I also think of the daily joy I experienced on the most routine of days as I picked up kindergartener Tommy or Charlie--their coats buttoned by a teacher, their boots put on by a classroom aide in whose care I had unquestioningly placed my trust.

I remember the big green pompom of Charlie’s hat as he was led from class, holding hands with his partner and smiling. I remember how happy we were to see one another after no more than three hours apart. I see a tiny Tommy sitting in a booster seat in the barber’s chair as we make eye contact in the mirror while he gets an after-school haircut.. I was, and still am ridiculously happy to be their mommy. 

To love your own child is to automatically understand how another parent feels, put yourself in their place and, to some degree, feel their pain.

In the current tumult of my mind, I believe solutions are far more complicated than we think. 

Those determined to hurt others will always find a way to do so....for many reasons including through the vulnerability of good people because, in their goodness, they cannot fathom -- or certainly expect and adequately prepare for the type of hell unleashed at Sandy Hook Elementary. To believe that people exist who are capable of such incomprehensible evil means accepting it and that, in itself, is unacceptable.

After this, there will more rules, more restrictions as well as media coverage until we’re dizzy. There are already reports of Newtown residents wanting the”journalists” to pack up and leave. There will be more bad dreams at night, more fear and more anxiety that can’t be talked away by the well-intentioned grief counselors deployed across this little state.

As kids return to school all over America, I find myself grateful that mine are not among them. Yet I worry about my grown-up babies shopping in malls, on line at the supermarket or at their desks at work. This kind of fear, and ultimate desensitization, has become the new normal.

I cannot pretend, even to myself, to comprehend why anyone would do what was done last Friday. I, as will many, continue to pray that those who need comfort will receive it as well as for the safety of the innocent everywhere. 

Good luck to those prayers…they're going to need it.   

The best I can do is Ieave you with a line from a poem called "Desiderata" by Max Ehrman...”with all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.”


  1. I am chilled and sickened by the events in Connecticut. So sorry for the pain and grief.

  2. I agree that the media is out of control but the appetite for news like this is demanded by a voyeuristic public. God bless Newtow,

  3. My heart aches for all of the families affected by the tragedy. That said, I reject the notion that the killer was motivated by fame which was implied when you stated the media circus will, "make it irresistible to others (and we all know, there are others) to commit similar crimes." People who commit these crimes are mentally ill and are not in the same bucket as reality TV stars who want to be famous.

  4. Thanks for reading, Anon. I don't believe that the Newtown gunman was motivated by fame but I do fear and strongly feel that infamy is a strong motivating force. Of course, anyone who acts in such a way, is mentally by definition.

    "Copy cats" are an accepted source of concern, are they not?

    1. I'm a different "anonymous," and no, they're not--copycat behavior isn't typical of actual mass murderers. Read profiles of these people --infamy isn't a motivating factor either (most of them kill themselves, so they're not around for that payoff).

    2. Susan, i want to thank you for using your article to express what most parents feel. What happened In Newtown, or in all of the other locations for that matter leaves me speechless but detrmined to help create change. May God bless those innocent children we have lost and may there be some way.. and at some point for the parents, friends and relatives of those familes to find some semblance of peace and harmony in Their lives.

  5. What a mess everything is. Where is sanity?

  6. I love you but I didn't read your post today.You know why. Please tell Charlie hi for me. Would you like me to send you some earmuffs?

  7. I love you, too and I wouldn't want you to have read it. I wish I hadn't written it. XO