Newtown, Connecticut: A Very American Tragedy
I’ve not written anything for a few days because, well, I’ve been trying to organise what I think about the awfulness of the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. Trying, also, to find a way of writing about it that seems appropriate. There are moments, I think, when a too-polished piece of prose risks seeming distastefully narcissistic, too close to being from the School of Martin Amis. I remember Amis describing the “sharking” trajectory of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center more than a decade ago and thinking that, as apt and vivid as the image was, there was something unpleasant about it. Something that suggested the author was too admiring of his own imagery. The event made self-consciously fine writing seem superfluous and even oddly obscene.
And yet writing nothing is not quite possible either. We have, after all, been here before. For me, it was a cold, damp, spring morning in Blacksburg, Virginia five years ago. Recalling it now, it is the quiet I remember most. Hollow-eyed students, numbed by the horror of it all, gathered in Virginia Tech’s public places, offering each other what comfort they could. No-one spoke at much above a whisper; no-one knew what there was to say. Telling the story never felt so intrusive, so unseemly, so pornographic. The bald facts were - or should have been - enough. As a reporter, I felt guilty just being there.
There have been other mass shootings since and there will be others again. Ranking these horrors is grotesque but this massacre in Newtown is even worse, if that can be said at all, than all these previous miseries. If my experience is at all common, you will have seen parents, wherever in the world they live and whatever their nationality, posting messages on Facebook or Twitter giving thanks that their children were safe that night. It was awful and it made me cry.