There are events so vivid and horrifying they give us all pause to reflect and wonder what we could do to avert such tragedy in the future.
One such occurred in Newtown, Conn. last week, where a shooting rampage left 27 people, including 20 elementary school students – and the alleged shooter – dead.
In the aftermath, an anguished chorus of voices erupted over social media, on radio and television, expressing everything from understandable anger and outrage to debates over whether gun control or more attention to mental health should be the priority.
Politicians, predictably, have been quick to add platitudes to the tumult. Practical leadership is likely to be more challenging.
There are no easy answers to why this tragedy occurred, and, consequently, no quick fixes for the issues it raises. Simplistic solutions may work in the fantasy world of the movies, but they seldom stand the test in real life.
We can only shake our heads at the more hysterical responses to the events at Sandy Hook Elementary – including the actions of an 11-year-old Utah boy who days later brought a gun to his school, apparently without the knowledge of his parents, because he feared for his safety.
Perhaps the most important thing is that the public – in the U.S., in Canada, and around the world – has been faced with incontrovertible evidence that there is a problem.
The only positive we can take away from the horrific incident is that it is one of those events that generate enough emotion to provide a tipping point for public opinion.
All the while we shrug at such violent incidents, all the while we turn away, resigned to the notion that this is the way of the modern world and there is nothing that can be done about it, we become a party to the bloodshed.
Anyone with an ounce of feeling who looks at the class and family pictures of the innocent victims of the latest tragedy must say – at some point – that this is wrong; enough is enough.
The slaughter at Sandy Hook has made many prepared to re-examine their own beliefs; to put issues such as gun control and mental health on the table, instead of sweeping them aside with the conditioned reflex of entrenched attitudes.
For the tragedy itself we can only have sorrow. But for the fact that there are still millions in this world with compassion, decency and humanity, who abhor violence and who want to work towards a better world, we must be thankful.