Today’s tragedy in Connecticut is not the type of news that makes reporters get out bed and say “Now this is the kind of thing I went to journalism school for!” Yes, we report on it. Yes, we grab screenshots of the “best” (if that superlative is even correct) tweets from the aftermath.
We embed videos of Obama crying, come up with opinion-heavy listicles and try to make some grand thesis about America’s history of violence. But it’s horrible. The murder of children is not something any of us want to dwell on, even as we understand the necessity of doing so. People went to Newtown today with cameras and crews not because they wanted to, but because when this kind of thing happens, someone needs to be on the ground.
And so it’s only fair that after a long day such as this one, we end on a note of–if not exactly positivity–some sort of pick-me-up. Like LeVar Burton of Reading Rainbow taking to PBS’s blog to help parents explain gun violence to their own kids.
As Mr. Burton wrote:
If your children hear about this tragedy, it is natural for them to imagine “what if?” and “will it?” happen in my school? Am I safe??? Can this happen to me and my friends? Parents and teachers and caregivers should not shy away from directly discussing this with children who are concerned or anxious or fearful. Let them know their fear is normal, that it’s OK to be sad on behalf of those who died, and even frightened that it may happen to them. Then we must explain how they themselves are safe. That the gunman who caused this incident is no longer a threat to anyone. Tell them that their teachers and principals work every day to make sure their schools are safe, then as quickly as possible, get back to your normal routine! Be aware that for some kids they may never think about this again, while others may have nightmares or manifest their anxiety in other ways. Both are normal reactions.
We kind of wish Mr. Burton was given some special appointment as Secretary of Confusing, Unimaginable Events, who would go on TV every time something terrible happened and tell us that our feelings are natural and okay; it’s fine to be scared and sad, but we are safe. We just want LeVar Burton to tell us that we’re safe, and we’ll believe him.