The Times West Virginian

December 21, 2012

For once, can’t unspeakable tragedy bring out our best?

Times West Virginian

— They said today would be the end of the world. Maybe the Earth won’t stop spinning, but it’s the end of the world as we know it.

Why? Because a week ago, a madman killed his mother and then broke into an elementary school and shot and killed six teachers and administrators and 20 children.

Fourteen years ago, the word “Columbine” would make people think of the beautiful flower with vibrant pedals in pinks, purples and yellows. But today, we associate that word with a mass shooting in Colorado blamed on video game violence.

Twelve years ago, the World Trade Center was something we all saw in the backdrop of movies and television shows. But with its collapse because of terrorist actions, new and stricter security measures were created for everything from water systems to airport luggage.

And a week ago, who even knew where Newtown, Conn., was located on a map or how to even pronounce it? Now we all live with the horror that someone could aim an assault rifle at a kindergartener and pull a trigger. And the world that we once knew is gone.

How will it change for the better? Will gun legislation change? Will there be more support for families of mental health patients? Will school safety increase?

We don’t know yet, but we know how this event has changed us.

There is fear. Many parents expressed fear in sending their children to school Monday morning. And many parents just didn’t send them at all.

And there is panic. Facebook posts from students across the state have been monitored and taken seriously. Schools have been locked down because of threats or perceived threats.

With every horrible event that occurs, there are always those who will take advantage of it. Do you remember the repeated bomb threats at schools and businesses following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11? Do you remember the hoaxes following the postal anthrax scare?

Hoaxes such as these are a disgrace to the memory of the 27 innocent lives taken on Friday, not something to laugh about on social media newsfeeds or to make light of between friends.

For once, we wish a tragedy would bring out the best in our youth. For once, we wish instead of giving into the fear and panic or even exploiting the fear and panic, something positive could come of the lives lost and the families broken. Vow to set aside 27 minutes each day to do something kind for someone. Volunteer 27 hours to a mental health facility. Adopt 20 angels from the Salvation Army Tree.

Make 27 paper snowflakes and send them to Connecticut PTSA, which is trying to make it a little easier for the children of Sandy Hook Elementary school to come back on Jan. 13. Snowflakes can be sent to Connecticut PTSA, 60 Connolly Parkway, Building 12, Suite 103, Hamden, CT 06514.

Anything but creating more fear or more to feel panic about.