It was a gruesome introduction to the reign of the gun.
Six adults and 20 children – children who were probably still shedding baby teeth and believing in Santa Claus – were slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary School last week in Newtown, Conn.
They were killed by a mentally ill guy whose tormented mind told him that he should assert himself by picking up an assault rifle and shooting his way through a school in the same way that a soldier shoots his way through enemy territory.
Except that this wasn’t enemy territory. It was an elementary school. A school full of children whose parents, by the very act of moving to a suburban enclave like Newtown, had hoped to get them educated while preserving their safety and innocence at the same time.
Yet on Dec. 14, 20 children’s lives ended just as the promise of a new school day began. And I worry about the children who survived the attack in the same way that I worry about black children who survive the same kind of carnage in poor, urban areas.
These are children who, on a daily basis, encounter gun violence. These are children who grow up learning how to dodge bullets and to recognize serum from the blood that they see spilled on streets. These are children who have never had the luxury of being able to hang on to their innocence.
These are children who have to learn the three R’s while wrestling with trauma.
This has been happening for some time now.
Back in 1989, during the height of the violence in South Central Los Angeles, a Los Angeles Times magazine article quoted children struggling to cope.
Said one: “They shoot somebody every day. I go in and get under the bed and come out after the shooting stops.”
Said another: “It’s like the violence is coming down a little closer. We don’t come outside a lot now.”
Said another: “My uncle got shot in a fight – there was a bucket of his blood. And I had two aunties killed and one of them was pushed onto the freeway and there were maggots on her.”
Fast forward to Chicago of 2012.