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  • No Reason Why

    In November, Ben decided to read Dave Cullen’s Columbine, a nonfiction account of the 1999 school shooting that left 15 people dead and shook the world.

    He had just finished the book when the shootings in Newtown, Conn., occurred. Minutes after it was first reported, I received a text from him.

    “Did you hear? Can you believe it? ... Why?”

    More than a month has passed, and it’s still unbelievable—the shooting that led to the deaths of 20 elementary school children, six adults at the school, the gunman’s mother at home, and the gunman himself. It affected us so profoundly that our president was left teary-eyed, that donations were so overwhelming that townspeople had to ask us to stop sending them.

    On Dec. 14, I was in Austin, preparing for my extended Texas family to come and see my son perform in a show the following evening. The next morning, my cousin was coming to meet us when he was killed in a head-on collision.

    Over two days the next week, as my mom and I drove out to his small West Texas town for the funeral, I thought about my son’s question and then back to my magazine’s 10th anniversary coverage of the Columbine tragedy.

    The events that led to the Newtown and Columbine shootings could not be less similar, but both cases resulted in a tragic and senseless loss of life. Both continue to raise vexing questions about our society—some involving schools, others not.

    Interestingly, in the small town of Albany, Texas (population: 2,034), the person who officiated at my cousin’s funeral also brought up the tragedy that had occurred thousands of miles away. He pointed to the people in attendance—a great percentage of them gun owners—and told them it was OK to cry, and to ask why these events occurred within 24 hours of each other.

    He said this knowing no clear cut answers exist. Sometimes, he noted, there’s no logical reason why.