Here's some advice for you today, as the families of Noah Pozner and Jack Pinto bury the first graders shot to death with 18 classmates in Connecticut on Friday: Quit wondering why it happened.
Because that's exactly why those children died. So that you would wonder. So that you would spend days or weeks rolling this over in your mind, puzzling over the horror as you drank a cup of coffee, seeing that grainy picture in your mind of the mop-topped killer as a junior high kid. So you'd look at a file of children coming out of school wondering what monster might lurk among them.
There isn't going to be a note from beyond the grave. There isn't going to be a tell-tale file on his hard drive, a voice mail message left of some acquaintance's cell phone. No damning psychological analysis neglected in a county social worker's file drawer.
The meaning of this horror was written in the blood of six and seven-year-old boys and girls, cowering in their classroom before the roar of semi-automatic rifle fire.
You know why he did it.
Because the bar was already set intolerably high at Virginia Tech in 2007. There, 32 died and 17 others were left marked for life. But those were college kids. And there's just no way in this day and age to get ahold of, and detonate, enough explosives to top the 1927 horror in the Bath School Bombing. Thirty-eight kids died at a stroke that day. The numbers are just hard to match anymore, now that kids know to hide, to run, to barricade the door and pray, to lock down. You've got to really reach to make your mark in butchery anymore.
In an age when worldwide fame is scarcely farther away than a tap on the REC button, when going viral is the mark of achievement, your prospects as an awkward, introverted, skinny kid from the suburbs probably don't look real great. You can barely make it out of high school. Your mom shows off rifles to the landscaper in the yard. Your older brother is doing well at Ernst & Young. You aren't going to be a finalist on "The Voice."
But the annals of history — the lights of fame — are nonetheless in your grasp. You just need to grow, unnoticed, more senselessly monstrous than the last guy. Do it right, and you'll be a cable TV star for weeks. Top Twitter. Your name will ring out in the halls of Congress, your exploits will fill the front page of the New York Times.
Every time that killer's name is repeated, he wins. Every time you ponder his meaning, he wins.
Remember those kids instead. Think about their teachers. Think about principal Dawn Hochsprung hearing the glass in the front of her school shattering: She was a schoolteacher, for God's sake. A middle-aged schoolteacher wrapping up her work week, who, from what we know so far, heard the shots and ran to the sound of the guns. My God, the love of that woman. For a building full of strangers' kids. It's blinding, it shines so brightly.
Try holding that in your heart, instead, every time you're tempted to wonder why. Remember that for the rest of your life. That's what you can do right now to stop this from happening again.