Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

First We Must Grieve; Then We Can Mend

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

First We Must Grieve; Then We Can Mend

Article excerpt

At some point, we had to look away. The grief in the parents' faces was too naked. Their bodies doubling over at the unspeakable blow was too private for us mere strangers to witness.

We didn't really need visual cues to know how to feel. Hearing the plain, horrible fact that someone had walked into a Connecticut elementary school and murdered child after child, 20 dead by day's end, was more than enough for the chest to throb and the eyes to well. It was far too much.

Six adults died too, five of them at the school, reportedly putting themselves between the gunman and the innocents. But that's what good adults, or even average, conflicted, fearful adults do: They become great when a terrible moment calls them to greatness.

We wept to hear of their heroism. We wept to see the parents standing in the parking lot and lining the side roads waiting for children who would never walk out of that school.

And we looked away to avoid becoming consumers of the pornography of grief.

Tragedy brings out the noblest in some and the worst in others. Those whose job it is to convey news of a tragedy too often offend our sense of decency.

After a deeply troubled milk truck driver killed five Amish girls in their schoolhouse in 2006, a female reporter tried to sneak into one of the home funerals dressed as an Amish woman and a camera crew asked to use a neighbor's roof to film the private religious service.

It would be a relief not to see such tear-mongering again, but the breathless coverage of President Barack Obama's emotional statement Friday was not a good sign.

It was sophomoric.

He spoke eloquently for the nation; his media acolytes did not.

Tasteless excesses aside, the media can't be faulted for wall-to- wall coverage when their audience is an entire nation; the responsibility to watch or not watch, to listen or not listen, is ours.

If a picture's worth a thousand words, sometimes a thousand words are easier to bear than one more picture.

We can look away from the tragic scene, but the torrent of words has just begun, in homes and workplaces everywhere, because we all hope with everything we have within us that another such atrocity never occurs. …

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