I went to a UCF basketball game the other night with my friend Coach Cowher. We shared a suite with a large family. At halftime, I left the suite to say hello to a friend. As I went for the door, a cute toddler chased me. I picked her up and passed her back to her mother. The episode lasted a few seconds, but I was impressed by the little girl’s boundless sense of curiosity and my own cynicism. She was so cute, so open and untrampled by life experience. I felt a sense of concern for her when life would not be so nice and forgiving. How would she handle it? Surely her smile would fade and dark, desperate thoughts would consume her inner peace and invade her private time. Of course, I hope this won’t happen, but I wouldn’t bet against it.
This afternoon, I left the gym to the news that 26 people including 20 children were killed in their elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut just ten miles from Danbury where I grew up. Anger, outrage, profanity, calls for retribution, anti-2nd Amendment rants and prayer have filled my timeline all day. All are valid and authentic emotions, but they are all too familiar and common. Part of digesting this tragedy is made by immediate comparison to Columbine and other monumental tragedies.
We call the killer a coward and evil to drive a wedge as deep and far as possible from ourselves and this failed person. Problem is we can’t escape him or others of his ilk, they are us as much us as our heroes. The crucible of society forges each of us.
Mentally ill, disillusioned, disconnected and disenfranchised people are pushed through our inefficient schools and released into a society that has no place or purpose for them. They are far more readily apparent than we might think. We will learn in the coming weeks a multitude of information or signs about this perpetrator that if viewed in context would have pointed to what occurred today in general, if not in particular. There may well be some prior involvement with the legal system and with certainty an all too easy access to weapons. Their will indoubtedly be a connection to the school. These acts are not random or spontaneous. They slow burn in shallowness and are set off by an emotional trigger.
We know this because it has happened before and we know despite the vows and admonishments of this day it will happen again. It is tragic, but at this point a known peril of our existence. We are too vast, too conflicted with self-interest, political pride and religous-based competitive morality to enact and implement a change profound enough to shield us from the darker selves.
I text Coach Cowher a few hours ago unable to process, accept or make any peace with what’s transpired. I am hurt for those who have been affected most, concerned by the knowledge we can’t eliminate the how, why and what of today’s events and fearful that it will happen again closer still to me.
To those who lost their lives today, rest in peace as that is certainly not how we as your survivors will live.