The only words that explain Sandy Hook: Pure evil

Since the massacre of innocent school children and those that gave their lives educating and trying to protect them this past Friday at Newtown Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School, I’ve struggled to make sense of this calamity as much as much as anyone.

As a physician who has worked to save the lives of sick and injured children, and as a father of children the same age as those massacred in cold blood, I have searched for answers to the questions, “Why?” “How do we make sure this never happens again?” and “How do I know this won’t happen to my family?” along with everyone else.

As I’ve read, seen and listened to various explanations and solutions, some better than others, most have rung very hollow. The arguments and blame fly back and forth, “We need to ban guns,” “We need more guns,” “We need more outpatient mental health treatment,” “We need to re-institutionalize the mentally ill,” and so on. The more I listen, the less I am convinced that anyone I’ve heard, from the checkout clerk at my local grocery store, to the President of the United States has any real solution to prevent this from happening again, or even make such happenings less frequent.

As I dropped my daughter off at school today, and let her get out of the car and walk away from me and out of my sight, I realized that to a certain extent, this was and always has been an act of faith of sorts. As I’ve thought more and more about this horrible incident, the questions keep coming, but without answers. I have no good answers to the above questions. In a nearly post-spiritual world where technology can do practically everything but find answers to the truly important questions in life, I realize there is a word that does perfectly describe this incident, and consolidates all of the pain, hurt, chaos, insanity, confusion, murder, blood and tears. All religion, preaching, atheism, agnosticism and separation of church-and-state arguments aside, the only word I can find that offers any sort of explanation, summary or satisfying consolidation of what we saw last Friday is … evil.

Pure evil.

If anyone doubts the existence of true evil, you’ve seen it. That is the most disturbing and frightening thing about the incident at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School. Despite all the good in this world and all the good we may try to achieve with varying levels of success as physicians trying to heal sick and injured children, or trying to protect our own children, we share this world with a certain element of pure unadulterated evil. Despite all of our necessary efforts to prevent, protect against and deter it, when someone chooses to truly commit an act of pure evil, they can. When one does so, there is very little any of us can do about it but hurt, mourn the lost, support the living and move forward with acts of good hoping time will offer at the very least, some solace and clarity.

My deepest condolences go out to the victims of this incident, their families and all of those touched in any way.

“BirdStrike” is an emergency physician who blogs at WhiteCoat’s Call Room at Emergency Physicians Monthly.

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