It’s logical to believe that our response, as a nation, to this latest massacre will be a defining moment in our history. The events of Columbine in 1999, Virginia Tech in 2007, and Aurora, Colo., in July have built a painful legacy punctuated in somber anniversaries, which now number as “one too many” for the American public to bear.
The difference in Newtown was notable — they were prepared with a security plan, had full control of school entry points (locked doors), and were well trained in the actions to take during an emergency. It didn’t matter. Within minutes an unprovoked gunman broke into their quite rural school and abruptly ended 26 lives. This, in a town that had only recorded one homicide in the past decade.
The frustration weighs heavy on a society that has grown sick of the senseless slaughter that has moved from inner cities to the high schools, public universities, suburban malls and movie theaters of rural America. In Georgia it’s reached local churches, with no refuge — not even a house of worship — safe from the murderous intent of a crazed gunman.
However, this was unprecedented. It was an elementary school — and 20 of the victims were between the ages of 6 and 7. How do you console the grieving parent of a 6 year-old senselessly killed along with his classmates 10 days before Christmas?
While the long lens of history may not fully capture when the tide turned, or where government decided it was finally time to develop new sweeping legislation to prevent another senseless slaughter, I believe Newtown represents that turning point, our true “defining moment.”
So, as we pray this week for the families and friends of the victims of this terrible tragedy, let us hope for all our sakes that our collective actions extend past the well intentioned condolences and flags set at half staff. As a civilized society where we truly value the sanctity of life, we simply can’t endure another repeat of these events.
Thomas Cheater represents Ward 6 on the Marietta School Board.