Shooting Straight About Newtown, Connecticut

By: Jeff Katz – January 2013

I remember distinctly where I was as I heard about the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. I was trying to assemble some material to discuss that afternoon on WIOD Radio in Miami, Florida. I was going to talk about an outrageous rate increase for Florida Power and Light and I felt that a few other things would surely pop up by show time. And then my wife asked me, “Did you hear about Connecticut?”

I actually had not. As I pulled up some news sites online, I read about the horror. Different sites had different death totals, but even with the numbers still subject to change, what was certain was that we were witnessing one of the most horrific slaughters in modern history. What was also certain was that some were ready to use this for crass political purposes.

When I sat down behind the microphone, I made a few confessions on the air. First, I said that despite more than a few years in the talking business I honestly had no idea what to say. I apologized to the listeners when I shared with them that I would not be turning my cell phone off and I warned them that if it rang during the show because my sons wanted to talk about the killings, I would be taking that call. For six hours, I fielded calls from moms and dads who shared with me that they could think of no words to describe what had happened either. Each of us, it seemed, had dropped a son or a daughter off at school that morning and fully expected that we would be seeing them at the end of the day. The vast majority of us did, of course, but for some parents in Connecticut, their children would never be coming home.

I know what twenty elementary school kids look like. Every Wednesday evening, I volunteer as the Den Leader for my community’s Cub Scout Wolf Den. Every week I attempt to help a group of second grade boys navigate the process for completing their Scouting achievements. Some weeks are easier than others, but every week I walk out of there with a tremendous sense of accomplishment and pride. I describe this weekly duty as being tiring but rewarding. I’d imagine that the wonderful school teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary felt the same way.

Before that day, the biggest problem that those children had was wondering what they’d be getting for Chanukah or Christmas. Before that day, the biggest problem that their parents had was trying to outsmart them and make sure that the presents were well hidden. Of course now, those gifts will forever go unopened. No need to hide them any longer, but I’m not sure that I could ever bear to remove them from the closet.

After a terrible tragedy like this, people invariably look for logical answers. The problem is that those who commit acts like this are neither rational nor logical. Some are psychopaths, some are sociopaths and some are mired in the depths of schizophrenia or other severe mental disorders. Good people stand up and proclaim “we have to do something.” These are people who don’t want to feel that they are powerless and sadly they are often manipulated by bottom feeding politicians who work overtime to exploit tragedies.

I know that Connecticut has some of the strongest restrictions on firearms in the country and yet this happened. I know that the mental health system is routinely ignored. I know that we must remember the victims and their families in our prayers. I know that we need to hug and kiss our kids even as we embarrass the heck out of them by proclaiming loudly “I love you!”