What change will come from the tragedy?
Rita Papazian
Published: 4:19 pm, Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Friday morning at 9:30 a.m., church bells will toll during a moment of silence in memory of the 20 children and six adults shot dead in an elementary school just one week ago.

Days earlier, clusters of white balloons, symbolic of purity and innocence, were tied to trees and streets signs on Beach Road, one of the most historic streets in Fairfield, where nearly three centuries ago, the British marched to the town green, burning houses on their way. The horror of the British mayhem and destruction is still remembered today as we deal with a new horror -- the unthinkable -- that 20 innocent children, reminders of our own children and grandchildren, were gunned down in what should have been one of the safest havens, a school classroom.

I stood on Beach Road along with other journalists, national and international, across from the Abraham L. Green and Son Funeral Home where the first of 20 funeral services for the young victims was taking place. The media -- television cameramen, still photographers and reporters -- stood for hours, respectfully, waiting for that one key moment when the tiny casket would be driven away in the big black hearse carrying little Noah Pozner, 6, to his final resting place.

While waiting for that moment when two lines of local police officers straddling motorcycles would lead the hearse followed by cars carrying the Pozner family, relatives and friends, the media and local spectators, many who had come out of the nearby medical building, spoke quietly of the horrific shooting and pondered what change, if anything, would come from the tragedy.

My friend Louise suggested that there should have been one funeral with 20 tiny caskets carried down the aisle in a House of Worship. Maybe then, our lawmakers would change the gun laws so that there would no longer be innocent shooting victims sprawled on the floor of a movie theatre, a high school, an elementary school or the cold hard cement pavement at a shopping mall.

My daughter wants to know what kind of parenting was going on with Peter and Nancy Lanza, a divorced couple of two sons, including the 20-year-old shooter, Adam, who shot himself as the local police stormed the elementary school in Sandy Hook section of Newtown, shortly after the young man had shot his mother in the head reportedly while she was in bed.

Where was the father in his son's life, my daughter wants to know? Yes, we have so many questions about this young man. We know what happened, but we don't know why. What we do know is that maybe finally someone will do something to protect innocent people, especially the innocent children, from ever being struck down by a gun again.

My friend Louise and I suggest that maybe we, both grandmothers, should organize the grandmothers in this country to fight for stricter gun laws. Should we call ourselves GAG (Grandmothers Against Guns) or maybe NAG (Nanas Against Guns). That sounds even better. Let us nag the powers that be into effecting change.

My daughter wants to know why is it always young white males, usually middle-class who are the shooters in these mass killings? I want to know why, too. We know little about Adam Lanza, except what we have heard through the media. His mother is dead and his father and brother have not spoken publicly except for a short statement of condolences to the victims' families. Law enforcement is investigating -- putting together the pieces, including the computer that reportedly Adam smashed up before his rampage.

How do we move forward to protect our society from future mass killings?

Taking into consideration what we have learned about the shooters in the recent past mass killings, the little we know about Adam Lanza and the fact that his mother was a gun enthusiast who took her son to the shooting range, I would say we need a multi-prong approach to dealing with the proliferation and access of guns that go into the wrong hands.

We need to heed the voices of reason, especially that of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg calling for stricter gun laws. We need to address mental illness in this country with approaches that not only help the person with mental illness, but also parents dealing with a child with mental health issues. We, as adults and parents, need to monitor our children's access to computers, especially violent video games to determine whether or not such access is affecting that particular child. We need to take a good look at how our children isolate themselves from social contact. We know little about Adam, but what we do know is that he was a loner who was reluctant to engage in social contact at school. Reports indicate that he had been home schooled. We don't know if this is true or for how long he was. We have seen aerial photos of his home -- a large home, set on a large piece of property in an upscale, wooded area. We're getting the picture of a young man living in an environment of layers and layers of isolation, possibly with a divorced mother, who isolated herself in dealing with a troubled son.

Sorry, but I do put much responsibility for the tragic outcome last week on the shoulders of the parents. We, parents, can be enablers or we can look the other way or even give up. After all, Adam was 20, legal age. His father was remarried and living with his new wife in Stamford, miles from Newtown. What was the contact between father and son? What had been the relationship between father and son and mother and son?

Yes, indeed, it takes a village to raise a child and it certainly doesn't end at age 18. What we have noticed in this past week is the tremendous compassion we have for the victims' families. This compassion seems to be spilling over in our day-to-day contact with our own family members, neighbors and even strangers. The world seemed to have stopped this week, just as it did when John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, and on 9/11 in 2001. Today, nothing in our lives seems as important as our own children and grandchildren.

After the hearse drove out from the Green Funeral Home, I walked down the street to get a cup of coffee at the local convenience store. As I paid for my coffee, the clerk, who had had a very busy day with the stream of media coming into the store, summed up the week in one sentence.

She said to me, "You can feel the grief in the air."

Rita Papazian is a freelance writer who has covered Fairfield County extensively. She can be reached at ritajpap@gmail.com  . 

Copyright 2012 Rita Papazian All rights reserved.