A horrible mystery

Susan Slotnick

Susan Slotnick

Hours after the massacre of 20 small children by a young mentally challenged gunman, (Friday night Dec. 16), I walked into an elementary school in Saratoga Springs to prepare for a dance performance with 150 fifth graders participating. After hours, schools are ominous places. The corridors are eerily quiet, the halls are dark and usually there is a custodian’s cart somewhere near a single-lit classroom. All the doors are unlocked and I couldn’t help but think anyone could enter the school at night, hideout in the many closets, under the hundreds of desks in the dozens of classrooms.

For years I was told that, at night, this school was haunted. Credible people who I would not have expected to believe such nonsense, insisted that lights suddenly turned on, unexplained strange noises were heard like footsteps coming from the top floor. Now I thought how innocent a ghost was by comparison to the deranged gunman who, in an instant, ruined hundreds of lives for many generations to come.

After Columbine, a new terror gripped the nation. Everything changed and nothing changed. We were told by our leaders while people were grieving, it was too soon to talk about gun laws. After Virginia Tech, Tucson, Aurora, Oak Creek and thousands of other gun fatalities, the same tired arguments and political platitudes were debated endlessly by talking heads while the horror was played out on all the news stations in a continuous loop.


With no new news, the catastrophe is shown on television again and again. How many thousands of times did we see the planes crashing into the World Trade Center? Every time the image was stored in our brains, to what effect? How many other deranged, alienated, powerless, depressed, misguided and emotionally disturbed young men are watching the Sandy Hook coverage and being hypnotized by the repetition of power and fame achieved by Adam Lanza in death?

Could this happen here? Absolutely. We have mentally ill children in our town. Some of the 300,000,000 privately owned guns in America are in our community. The pervasive belief that it will not happen here can produce a numbing trance-like conviction that we are safe.

Just today I heard this hackneyed statement again in the media:

“It’s not guns that kill people. It’s people who kill people”

This statement would have some weight if politicians could pass laws against the existence of troubled teenagers or parents with poor judgment. We can outlaw guns. We cannot outlaw illness and irresponsibility.

Another hackneyed statement: “Those in favor of gun control have the blood of the Sandy Hook children on their hands because schools are no-gun zones and if every teacher and administrator were armed, this would not have happened!”

Even if the Sandy Hook principal had a loaded gun in her desk, she would not have been able to use it. She was not in her office at the time. What would it say about our nation if every teacher of young children had a weapon within reach and the knowledge to use it? Would the New Paltz Board of Education be required to provide a methods course on gun proficiency along with social studies, math and reading? Without arming more citizenry, our nation already holds the shameful distinction of being the most gun violent country in the entire world.

Violence is everywhere, gratuitous, abundant and commonplace. In most cases of massive shootings, it is reported that the gunman was obsessed with murderous video games, sickening song lyrics and films which glorified the mass killings of innocent people.

The premiere of Tom Cruise’s Jack Reacher, which contains a mass shooting, has been postponed out of “honor and respect for the families of the victims” (or maybe, postponed due to the massacre interfering with ticket sales on the opening day). Thanks Tom. That’s appreciated, but surely it will be a block-buster hit in no time at all. Holiday fare for an outing at the movies.

I wonder how many violent video games are wrapped holiday presents nationwide.

President Obama has made some veiled cautious references to using his office to prevent gun violence. The NRA has been silent. Several unlikely politicians have made vague statements about “rethinking their positions of gun control.” But there will be opposition.

It was touching to see the president tearing up addressing a shocked and grieving nation. It was sad to see YouTube, Twitter and Facebook comments questioning the validity of his tears. “It would have been okay if the president had not been such a hypocritical phony. He was obviously faking, since everyone knows that tears form on the inside not the outside of the eyes and he was wiping the wrong way.”

Since reading this, I have been hoping to cry to see which way my tears fall. Had I read this before the Saratoga Springs school performance, I would have had plenty of opportunity to see how people cry, since so many tears of joy were shed.

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