“In Middletown, the connection between those ignored by society who then come back to cause harm is difficult to overlook.”
In the days and hours after the Newtown shooting, my thoughts turned to Johanna Justin-Jinich ’10, the Wesleyan student who was senselessly gunned down in Broad Street Books in 2009. A prefrosh at the time, I wasn’t on campus. I followed the tragedy, in horror and shock, from the safety of my parents’ house, and I fielded uncomfortable questions from high school classmates who asked if I was going to “the school where that girl was killed.”
I’m not the only member of the Wesleyan community for whom Sandy Hook triggered memories of 2009. First came a blog post from Professor Claire Potter, who reflects on faculty experiences in the wake of Justin-Jinich’s murder and argues forcefully against proposals to arm teachers. Then followed a Huffington Post column from President Roth, who advocates for gun control and writes, “If we falter, if we think the politics too difficult or too complicated, we should remember Johanna.”
“Violence and Mental Illness in Middletown, Connecticut” is the latest, a sprawling Atlantic piece that weaves together the shooting of Justin-Jinich, the 2012 outrage over Middletown elementary school “scream rooms,” and the horrific 1989 stabbing of a young girl on Main Street into a portrait of a small city still haunted by violence and stigmatization of the mentally ill. (David Peterson, the schizophrenic man who stabbed nine-year-old Jessica Short as her family looked on, had just escaped from Connecticut Valley Hospital, where Stephen Morgan is now held. Like Morgan, Peterson was later ruled insane.)
This post is in response to Tragedy and Facebook Statuses, a recent “WesleyingSpeak” by tuna.
My mother texted me Friday morning with news of the Sandy Hook shooting. At first I was just kind of numb. I combed through all my usual news sources, hoping to find more information. At this point, only the shooter had been confirmed dead. I went to lunch and continued to study for my film final.
However, about an hour before I took the test, “confirmed” reports started emerging: Around 26-28 people were murdered, most of them children, all of them shot down by a single, initially misidentified man. Again, I was overtaken by numbness. I tried to put the tragedy out of my head as I worked through my final, and afterwards I just sort of collapsed in my room. My mom called to tell me she loved me, and I watched Obama’s speech. I cried.
I thought about all of those kids who wouldn’t go home that day. I tried to think about what I was doing at that age. Little six-year-old me would’ve been swinging in the backyard, watching Scooby-Doo, and begging her mom to read me just one more picture book. I couldn’t help but think about the lives of these children, past, present, and future.
And then I wrote a Facebook status:
Major news outlets are reporting that a gunman has killed at least 27 people, many of them children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. It is said to be the
worst school shooting in history second worst school shooting in history, after the Virginia Tech Massacre, which left 33 dead. Newtown lies about 65 miles northeast of New York City and 40 miles west of Wesleyan, just off of I-84.
The Hartford Courant is reporting the at least 27 are dead, including at least 18 children. A more conservative estimate from earlier in the day put the death toll at 12, but the AP just released the higher figure, which spread quickly.
The first calls came in at 9:30 a.m. this morning. According to the Courant, one entire classroom was completely unaccounted for as of 10:30. Apparently, many of the victims were in one particular kindergarten class. There is no indication that the shooter had any relation to the school or students.