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Laura Kessel is managing editor of The News-Herald in Willoughby. She writes a weekly column and shares her thoughts here.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Newtown report's arrival a blessing for what's missing

It was a long time coming.

Eleven months and 11 days, to be exact.

I could probably break it down to the hours, too, but there’s no need to be quite that precise.

When the report on the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre was released Nov. 25, there was a certain sense of relief that it was out at all.

Many around the country had been awaiting its release for months, complaining that it was taking quite that long to share the details of the incident that left 20 elementary school kids and six educators dead. At a second crime scene, the shooter’s mother also was slain in her bed.

The report’s 48 pages were finally shared on a day that was much like Dec. 14, 2012, when it was cold with a light snow falling.

It was the kind of day that makes you think about the holidays and all the things you have to accomplish before you get there.

Then, just like that ... tragedy, front and center.

The longer it took for the report to be released, the more I worried that it would come out in the days close to the anniversary.

“They wouldn’t be that cruel?” I’d think to myself.

They weren’t.

Officials said the parents of the young victims were shown the report before it was released and approved its contents.

That made me feel better as I paged through the detailed analysis of when things happened, how officials think they unfolded and some background on those involved.

Bits of information caught my attention:

Six feet tall and 112 pounds.

30.47 pounds of weapons and ammunition.

Five weapons involved at two crime scenes.

Twelve students survived in the two classrooms where the shootings occurred.

Asperger’s Syndrome.

What stood out in the report was how troubled shooter Adam Lanza was, and how his mother had gone out of her way to remove him from the world.

According to the report, it seems she didn’t do much to secure treatment for Lanza, only moving him from situation to situation until he couldn’t fit in any longer.

He was prescribed pills to deal with mental issues. He didn’t take them.

He moved from school to school to home-school.

He wouldn’t use door knobs, he wouldn’t stay in hotels. He only ate certain foods, he changed his clothes constantly.

He didn’t speak to his mother the last three months of their lives, communicating only by email to someone with whom he was sharing a home. Oh, and during that time, he never left the house.
As troubling as were those details, I was comforted by what wasn’t in the report.

No photos of the victims: For months, there was ongoing discussion about whether images of the youngsters would be released to the public. In interviews, victims’ family members said they championed their release, as a means to show what gun violence can do. I never believed they’d make a difference and was happy they weren’t in the packet. A photo of a 6-year-old with a bullet in his forehead won’t stop someone who wants to kill another human being. And, I’d rather think of the victims as they were in the photos families released — smiling and happy. After all, that’s what they’re doing in heaven.

No 9-1-1 tapes: There’s still a fight over this one, but I for one was glad they weren’t included. A judge last Tuesday ordered their release, but it still remains to be seen whether they'll actually be in the public domain. We know from the report that it took four minutes, 39 seconds for the first officer to arrive on the scene. Lanza killed himself within a minute of that officer’s arrival, 30 seconds after encountering an officer while running through a hallway in the school. I don't need to hear more than that.

The report makes clear several times that despite months of investigation, officials were not able to find a motive for the massacre.

And, for that, I’m grateful.

Knowing why Lanza drove to Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012, and opened fire on dozens of innocent people will not bring them back or make the pain go away.

I, for one, think having it end this way leaves the focus right where it should be — on celebrating the lives of those who were lost that horrible day.


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