78 minutes

We were told today, in the latest version of events offered by authorities in Texas, that police left children locked in a classroom with a gunman for 78 minutes as they repeatedly called 911 begging for help, not knowing that their would-be rescuers were standing idly by. If there is a more poignant and more savage allegory for a country with a clear and urgent reason to solve an obvious policy problem that lacks either the will or courage to do so, it couldn’t be imagined by a vengeful god.

I don’t know why these children had to die like this, terrorized. I have wondered, when I’ve been too weak to counsel myself against wondering, how the surviving children from that classroom will live now. I think about the kids calling 911—just as they were told to do, just as we, adults, have always told them to do—hearing the operator, and requesting help. I want to know why their classmates’ lives are over. I want them to come back. I want none of this to have ever happened. I want this country to change.

At times like these, I think we ought to have some kind of language for the uniquely contemporary experience of grieving after the mass murder of children, or some ritual for comforting ourselves. It’s hard to grieve in a nation of anxious strangers, and there will be so much more grief. But I wish there were some word for that other, darker emotion, bred sui generis by these hellish events.

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