Friday turned out to be the darkest day of the year. It was a day to hug your kids, or call a parent or a friend, or do something that for a moment might dispel some of that darkness.
The news got worse with every bulletin. Shots fired in an elementary school in Connecticut. Three dead. No, many dead. Children shot. Children killed. Kindergarteners.
Newtown, Conn., became Everytown, America on this grim Friday. By mid-afternoon, the scale of the horror became clear: Twenty children had been murdered, plus six of their protectors. The crime took another sick turn with news that the killer was the son of one of the teachers. This appeared Friday night to be a matricide that evolved into mass murder.
All this happened during the holiday season, as people around the country prepared for a big shopping weekend, or got ready for relatives coming to town or kids coming home from college. This is family time, a season of joy. Light the candles, decorate the tree.
Tragedies can't be weighed and measured easily, though we try to do that with statistics, and chart the number of dead and wounded in our mass shootings. Just this summer, the country dealt with the tragedy in Aurora, Colo., when a madman shot up a midnight movie. We all remember the terrible events at Virginia Tech and Columbine High School, crimes on an exaggerated scale, saturated in hatred and madness. America has become a nation all too familiar with mass murder, to the point where it seems to have become an inextricable element of our society.
But nothing could have prepared the country for what happened Friday. This felt different, a ratcheting up of the evil, because so many of the victims were small children.
On Twitter, people were almost speechless at first, struggling to fill even the 140-character allotment. Because what could you say? Other than "No, no, no"?