We are all reeling in sadness for the murdered children and educators of the Sandy Hook Elementary School and for their families in these hours of indescribable pain. It is a developing story -- a horrifying truth.
In time, the facts will become clear. Details will change. The report of the hour says a gunman carrying four weapons and wearing black clothing as well as a bullet-proof vest entered an elementary school Friday morning in Connecticut and killed 20 children, six adults and himself.
The Associated Press reported, "The shooting appeared to be the nation's second-deadliest school shooting, exceeded only by the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, which left 32 people and the gunman dead."
What can that context possibly mean? How does this information register? When can we talk with each other about this? What can we do?
Today we weep, tomorrow we pray. We cry for the innocent children of Newtown, Conn., and we pray to relieve the unbearable pain their families must now endure.
Yet, we ask, once again, what can we do?
After Virginia Tech, we talked about quick-response teams. After Tucson, we talked about the size of bullet clips that should be permitted for sale. After Aurora, we talked about armed citizens fighting back. After Sandy Hook Elementary ... what should we discuss?
In those murders, the victims were college students attending their lecture classes, citizens who came to visit their congresswoman at a shopping center, people in a dark and crowded movie theater at the screening of "Dark Knight," and, now, little children in the opening hours of the last day of school before the weekend.
We know the dilemma. Mass murderers are crazy. Guns are just tools. We cannot eliminate mental illness. A free society cannot keep guns out of the hands of people whose impulses turn deadly.
Let us not tread once again across the familiar and irreconcilable landscape of talking points. We are weary of that shrug, sick of that shrug, embarrassed by it, outraged by it.
It has been 46 years since Charles Whitman climbed the Tower in Texas, shot 32 people to death, wounded 32 others and gave our language the words mass murderer.
We have moral, spiritual, educational and political leaders. We ask for their voices, their conscience, their courage. Who speaks for the lives lost in Friday's tragedy?
Weep. Pray. Speak. Act.