Motives do not matter to the dead. They don’t matter much to survivors, either. When my 6-year-old grandson, Noah, was gunned down three years ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, along with 19 other first-graders and six educators, we were engulfed in a grief so brutal and so profound that an explanation was the last thing we sought. We just wanted life the way it had been. We wanted Noah back. We still do. Badly.
Only a month earlier, while visiting from the West Coast, I had gone to the school book fair with the kids. We sat by the big window that the killer would later blow open to force his way in. Noah, his twin sister, his 7-year-old older sister and I read aloud from the books we had bought while waiting for their mom to be done with her three parent-teacher conferences. The kids made jokes, they laughed, they jostled each other. I treasure the picture I took of them on that small wooden bench. There was such love among these three, such complicity. The strongest of bonds.
Noah was an adorable little rascal, full of passion, full of love. He was fun, he was witty, he was fresh, he was everything a kid should be. I miss him terribly. I miss the boy I knew, and I miss the man he would have become. A whole life stolen. From him, from us.
He was killed minutes after drop-off. He had been happy and excited. He was invited to a pool birthday party the following day, and he couldn’t wait for Saturday to arrive. Only he never lived another Saturday. The next time any of us saw him, he was lying in a casket at a funeral home, his face untouched, still perfect, as though he were sleeping. He looked like he might wake up. But of course he didn’t.
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A couple of months ago, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon, wrote that he had never seen a body with bullet holes that was more devastating “than taking the right to arm ourselves away.” Presumably Carson never saw one of his kids or grandkids bullet-ridden and forever stilled.
The Sandy Hook murderer was possibly insane, or a psychopath, certainly a terrorist. I don’t know, and I don’t care. The only common denominator among mass shooters is that, one way or another, by means legal or illegal, they manage to get their hands on weapons, often military-style weapons, and use them to inflict maximum harm on unsuspecting civilians.
Guns don’t kill; people do. Yes, that’s true. An open society can never protect itself completely from evil or insanity. But it can start by preventing the distribution of the powerful weapons and ammunition used to kill our grandson and so many other innocents.
Kids have the right to grow up. Parents and grandparents have the right to see them do it. We don’t need another reason.
Marie-Claude Duytschaever is a member of the Everytown for Gun Safety Survivor Network.