I am so sorry….
For the past several weeks I’ve been celebrating the publication of Confessions and the positive response it’s received, but I have to call a halt for awhile. In light of Friday’s tragedy, it would be blasphemous to continue to cheer.
I keep having flashbacks to 9/11 and Columbine, but this may be the worst that any of us have experienced. We can all at least intellectually understand the harsh reality that there are terrorists who would see us as Americans obliterated; likewise, we have all come to accept the fact that disenfranchised and/or mentally unstable individuals hear voices or carry anger that propels them to commit unspeakable acts against their perceived enemies. But the intentional slaughter of children! Six and seven year olds! How is such evil possible?
Like most people, I keep looking for clues that will explain this to me. What could have been the motivation, what crime could these little ones have committed to warrant such a punishment? As a psychologist, I spend a lot of time trying to make psychological sense of events and circumstances in our world—political or social. Despite the horror inflicted and the depth of the crime, I do understand how countries come to hate each other, how wars start, how individuals—often politicians– psychologically are compelled to precipitate—even accelerate their own demise. Psychology explains a lot. But not this. Not yet. Perhaps never. How will we ever piece together the shattered mind of this young man who destroyed so many lives? Every drama has a protagonist who instigates action and an antagonist who works against it, but what role can we possibly assign to these children? It’s natural to look for logic at times like these but what logic could possibly exist?
I’m used to making sense of behavior by looking at an individual’s
biography. But who can supply that for us. The killer is dead; his mother is dead; his father seems devastated and at a loss to offer any information. Chances are we’re never going to know what precipitated this deadly assault. At dinner with friends last night, I wondered if perhaps the victims were stand-ins for the fortunate popular kids who perhaps tormented and rejected him when he attended that school or a similar one. Friday’s children were paying the price for their predecessors. That was the best that I could come up with. But not likely and not enough.
If we are searching for answers trying to make some sense out of these unalterable circumstances, imagine the plight of the parents and siblings and extended family’s. This is Christmas and this occurred on the closing days of Chanukah. Moms may well have been preparing Shabbos dinner or frantically rummaging at Toys ‘R Us for the latest action figure or doll outfit when they got the call. How did they find their way to the firehouse where they waited to hear the fates of their children? How were there not scores of cars smashing into each other as panicked already broken hearted parents made their way there? How did they go home—open the door to the house, their child’s room, encounter a truck or a scarf abandoned by an errant, now deceased child? How do they sleep? How in God’s name do they wake up in the morning? Tend to their other children—the sadness, the terror. How does a family sit down for dinner now? How does a parent explain what has happened to his brother or sister?
How does that parent convince herself and that child that the child should return to school?
All I come up with are questions. What I do know is that theirs is irreparable loss. Grief counseling? At best, it will take decades and will be incomplete. What parent ever gets over the loss of a child? These wounds are permanent. All my years as a psychologist does not prepare me for the unimaginable grief that has now taken over their hearts. I am a mother too and I recoil from such loss, yet I cannot turn away. But what can I do? I have no power here. Except to speak what’s in my heart and hope that you will speak what’s in yours.