OPINION: On Saturday, New Zealand time, much of the world stopped, temporarily frozen in horror at the news of the massacre of 26 people, 20 of them children.
Most of the children were either 6 or 7 years old, and the pain could be felt half a world away, right here in Taranaki, as in so many other places.
The pain was for the tragically short lives of these innocent children, their families and the six adults who did their best to protect them from the evil rampage of 20-year-old Adam Lanza.
No matter what was going on in his head or in his life, nothing could justify his actions.
At a time when the sheer number of shootings in the United States might have been enough to desensitise the rest of the world, the revulsion at news that first-grade pupils had been deliberately targeted catapulted this shooting into a unique category of evil.
It was perhaps captured best by the reaction of US President Barack Obama, who had to continually pause and keep his emotions in check as he held a news conference on the massacre.
Any parent, anywhere in the world, could not fail to empathise with him. The most unnatural thing in the world for any parent is to bury one of their children.
It is against the natural order of life, and to have these beautiful young lives snatched away, senselessly and violently, before they had really begun, could only have added to the devastation.
Now is a time of mourning, for the small Connecticut township of 26,000, just 130 kilometres north of New York, for the US, and for everyone who believes in the sanctity of life and of civilisation.
The shattered families of all 26 victims must be given time to grieve, to say goodbye to their own miniature life forces and come to terms with the grim reality that death is indeed permanent.
At the same time, there is anger, even contempt for Lanza, whose name will now forever be connected to this act of infamy.
It didn't take long for the debate to shift to the liberal gun laws in the US, laws that make the rest of us shake our heads in disbelief and wonder every time there is a tragedy about just what it will take to change them.
The right to bear arms is a constitutional standard in the US and the powerful gun lobby has successfully resisted every attempt to change things.
From the perspective of a small country of four million people half a world away, it seems madness that a 20-year-old can have such ready access to a cache of military-style arms.
In a final act of cowardly violence, Lanza turned the gun on himself, despite having a virtual arsenal of weaponry at his disposal.
The one sliver of light to shine through his evil actions was the selfless response of bravery and sacrifice of the children's teachers.
We will remember them.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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