Dear Son

Dear Son,

Remember yesterday when I helped you learn how to spell Connecticut? Today, a man in that state went to a school like yours and killed a lot of kids like you. He shot them in their kindergarten class.


I know you want to know why. It’s what everybody is asking. The parents of those children are walking up and down the street right now screaming that very question.


Why would anybody hurt anybody? Why would anybody want to hurt children?

There is no good answer. We have taught you for a long time that there is no reason to hurt someone unless he is trying to hurt you. I do my best to give you as many answers as I can, but I don’t have any answer for why. My only answer is, Son, there is no answer for why.


There are a lot of people in this world who are bad. Evil is another word for some of them. There are also people who are sick. Their brains don’t work like everyone else’s. They need help. Sometimes they can’t get it. They can’t understand how terrible it is to hurt other people.

Sometimes, Son, evil people have guns. Sometimes sick people have guns. Guns themselves are not evil tools. Police and soldiers need them to protect our countries. Some people use guns to protect their homes and property. Some people use guns for hunting. A lot of times, guns are used for good reasons.

And sometimes, they are used by evil or sick men to kill people as efficiently as possible.

A lot of people in our country—enough to make it matter—believe that our nation’s laws are enough to keep guns out of the hands of evil and sick men. A lot of people believe we as a society can’t be held responsible where those laws fail.

There are many people who believe that we take care of sick people as well as we can. They believe that we find and treat sick people as well as a society can based on the money we have to do it.

What I mean, Son, is that if all of these people are right, if all of our gun laws are sufficient, and our mental health system is sufficient, then things like this just happen. We have to accept them like we accept tornadoes and hurricanes and lightning strikes. There is a phrase for this that you might understand some day. It’s called “collateral damage.”

What do I believe?

Buddy, today I am just sad. I’m scared. I wanted so badly to run to school today and bring you home with me. In fact, I’m writing this while I wait for you to get home with your mom, and I hope you ask me none of these questions, because I don’t trust myself to be rational and objective right now. People I respect believe all of this is just something I have to accept if I want to be part of a safe society. People I respect believe that when this happens that it happens for unique reasons and that any common threads I find are a matter of my politics.

But what I feel right now isn’t about politics. It’s anger. It’s something called empathy. It’s actual physical pain for parents who won’t be putting their kids to bed tonight. I’m so sad, Son, and I have to find a way to wipe away these tears before you get home, because if I don’t, we’re going to have to have this talk sooner than I feel capable of having it.

Could it happen to you? Son, I’m terrified to say it could. Statistically, you are probably safe, and I’m supposed to take some comfort in that, because losing you in a horror like this is as likely as winning the lottery. It’s not likely to happen.

But I can’t feel right about taking comfort, because you are not the only child I love. You and your brother are my favorite, and you are the reason I wake up in the morning, but I also love your cousins. I love Mr. John’s kids. And I love Mr. Gordon’s kids. I love so many of our friends’ kids, and they all go to different schools.

I can’t take any comfort in the fact I didn’t have to run to your school today, fight through the traffic, struggle with the police, and wait for you to come out of the school. I can’t take any comfort that I didn’t have to feel the abject terror of wondering if you had been shot in the head at school. I can’t take any comfort in the fact that the man who did this was crazy and that things like this are “just going to happen.”

More than anything, buddy, I can’t take any comfort in the fact that it’s not me who has to bury his kids next week.I just can’t.

I love you, Son, and I’m sorry I can’t explain it any better.