On December 14, CBS’s news portal for Boston carried a news piece similar to the ones appearing on pretty much every news site in the country. I’m quoting from it not because it’s extraordinary in any way, but because (a) it’s reasonably close to the community most directly affected by the Connecticut shooting, and (b) we have to start somewhere. But really, I’m fairly sure I could find something similar in any news site in the country.
According to CBS, “Twenty-six people were killed and one person was injured in a shooting at an elementary school in Newtown,” including “20 children – ages 5 to 10 – and six adults.” In the very next paragraph, however, the article states “The gunman shot and killed himself inside the school.” And to be clear those six adults are Rachel Davino, Dawn Hochsprung, Anne Marie Murphy, Lauren Rousseau, Mary Sherlach, and Victoria Soto. Even though the shooter, Adam Lanza, died in the school, he’s almost never included in these lists.
It’s fairly straightforward to mourn a child. I don’t mean that it’s easy, or that there’s a formula that has to be met and then you move on. Grief never works that way and least of all with a child who we believe has barely begun to live. But this kind of grief lacks the moral ambiguity you see in suicides and deaths embedded in horrific crimes like the Connecticut shooting. How do you mourn someone when that mourning seems to so often be about the end of their life – and when that life ends so spectacularly in a way you just can’t approve of? On the one hand it seems wrong to name people like Adam Lanza in the same breath with their victims, almost disrespectful to those twenty-six people, but at the same time those who were closest to people like Adam Lanza have still lost a beloved brother, son, and friend. They’re part of this tragedy, too, and not by their choosing.