ABC News reports 31 school shootings in the U.S. since Columbine in 1999.
These are the times that try men's souls, and for youngsters everywhere, it is the end of the innocence. The Sandy Hook killings found us peering through television screens at the unspeakable, the unthinkable: a massacre on children. Soft, gleaming, trusting eyes of the most innocent, the helpless, knowing little more than to run away from harm, children ages 6 and 7, splashed across televisions breaking bad news.
With every child, something in us died. This is as tough as it gets.
And as Sandy Hook unfolded, another wild-eyed pistol waver in Cedar Lake, Ind., living fewer than 1,000 feet from Jane Ball Elementary School, was arrested after threatening to enter the school to "kill as many people" as he could. Police found 47 weapons and ammunition worth more than $100,000 in his home.
For all tediously crafted policies, procedures, the pageantry of drills and code enforcement, carefully scripted into glossy student handbooks, our schools stand vulnerable, wide open, held hostage by the often lone fringe, mired in squalor of discontent, up from cowardice, exacting inexplicable vengeance on young souls, smiling faces, furrowed brows framing eager glances, awaiting Christmas, visions, sugar plums, a night divine.
Do we know the warning signs? Are we poised in every school to marshal successful opposition to danger? Is every student and employee drilled on a crisis management plan?
Rivaled by 9/11 and Columbine, this is a time of stolen youth, breach of trust. Americans, indomitable, yet not today, will forever remember where we were when 6-year old faces stunned us into a hopeful watershed moment on school safety.
Violence has become commonplace, too much a part of our landscape; lessons go unlearned. We forget, move on, but hopefully not. Not now.
In 2007, Virginia Tech became the site of the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history with 56 people gunned down, 32 of whom died.
In 2006, an Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster, Penn., was gunned down by Charles Roberts. Roberts separated the boys from the girls, binding and shooting the girls; five young girls died.
In 1999, Larry Ashbrook opened fire on a Christian rock concert and teen prayer rally at Wedgewood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, killing seven, wounding others, almost all teenagers.
And there is April 20, 1999, the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history, when teenagers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot up Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., killing 13, wounding 21 others.
Now, in the middle of December, our nation halts, flags lower, countenances sink, stomachs churn -- nothing matters but the innocence -- the devoted teacher, the strong principal, the angel faces, locking a nation in grief, vulnerable, frozen.
Out of the wreckage comes faith, as indefatigable as New England snow. If nothing more, we hold life a little closer, dearer, sweeter still, with hopeful vows to the children of Newtown, lest we not forget them, their faces, a legacy, that they shall not have died in vain.
And it is for us, the living, to ensure that future children do not tread this path again.
Jeff Meadors is the District 1 representative on the Newton County Board of Education. Readers may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.