An unspeakable crime was committed today at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, CT resulting in the deaths of 20 innocent children and six of their teachers. My deepest condolences go out to the families of the victims.
Five years ago, another horrific act took the lives of 32 students and teachers at Virginia Tech.
I come from a family of teachers. Three of my four bridesmaids teach. Violence in the classroom strikes a particularly deep chord for me. Today, a different chord was struck: My husband is a graduate of Virginia Tech. Once upon a time, he was also a student at Sandy Hook Elementary.
In both Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech, the crimes were committed by young men. In a September 2012 survey of mass shootings by Mother Jones, of the 61 incidents since 1982, 11 took place in schools and almost all of them were committed by men under the age of 30. Time and again today I heard "experts" say that most of these killings are planned well in advance, that the killers often share their plans with others. But no one listens. No one takes them seriously until it is too late.
As a young adult writer I was struck by this fact. It's the eternal condition of the kid to be ignored, sidelined, not listened to. It's one of the reasons that I, as a kid, turned to books and storytelling. It was a way to hear and be heard. Now, I was lucky. I had parents who cared, who taught me, who showed me right from wrong. But they could not always take the time. And when they couldn't, there was always a book. Reading gave me a way to learn about the world without having to suffer every pain directly. In that way, books taught me empathy.
Listening to the news today, I tried to think what I would say to the children who survived today's attack. What books are out there to help them deal with grief, with loss, with the inexplicable. And then I wondered, what I could do to help?
As a writer, I ask you, what can we do to help. How do we reach the child before he grows up to become a killer? How do we reach the children who might end up beneath their desks or in a closet hoping they live to see Christmas?
It is evident to me that, somehow, we are failing our young men. Somewhere along the way, they are getting lost, angry, sick and they act out in horrific ways.
I am not a doctor. I am not a counselor. I am not even a parent with children of my own. But I am a writer. I write for teens to show them a path out of darkness.
It doesn’t get darker than this.
So, students, teachers, fellow authors let's put our heads together and come up with a new path. How can we help stop this from ever happening again?