The funerals begin today.
They will be held throughout the week, one or two every day, until the last hearse in the final funeral cortege makes its dreary way through the cemetery gates, trailed by cars with fogged and streaked windows, back into the real world.
If you could peer through those winter windows you might see the parents, or the grandparents, or the numbed brothers and sisters of the dead children, families silent save for one more choking sob, one more sharp intake of breath, one more grimace of anguish that will never, never be banished, arms around each other, trying desperately to remember clearly the joyful hug from a little boy now dead, a little girl now gone; it will now and forever be part of their lives, a piercing sadness that cannot be displaced, cannot be removed, cannot be dulled.
Did you cry when you heard? Did you shush the kids or your spouse as the news came over the radio, your mind trying to absorb this fresh horror? Did you glance out the window at people in cars moving past you on the freeway, perhaps trying to see if they had heard; if they were as stunned as you? When you arrived at the mall, Christmas gift list in hand, did you hesitate? Did you sit still and listen as the reports became ever more horrifying?
And, how are you feeling now? Perhaps there are no more tears to shed? (Ah, but there are always more tears.) Or is the knot in your stomach loosening, the tightness in your chest easing? Are you moving the breathtaking horror from your soul to your mind where it can more easily be dealt with, disposed of, rationalized? Is that possible? Can you do that?
If so ... what now?
Over this sad, unbearable weekend, millions of words have been said. The tragedy spread like a dark bloodstain from the first-grade classroom of dead children to families to the keepers of law and order to the state authorities to the politicians to the president. Shock. Horror. Words. Endless words. Endless.
The words are starting to change from unbearable grief to anger. The anger will change to action. The action will slowly dissipate to inaction, then to argument, then to counter-argument, then to accusation, then to ... nothing.
This was not the first, nor the last slaughter of innocents. It was only the next.