Dec. 16, 2012: MY LAST POST EVER! MAYBE!

…Well, actually, only if you still buy into all that 2012 apocalypse chatter. If the world ends next Friday, I’ll be hard-pressed to post on Sunday, won’t I? But let’s be honest: if it’s anything like all the Y2K hubbub, we’ll just watch a few end-of-the-world parties unfold and then go back to our daily lives.

While you’re almost certain to see another post here next week, this one will be a bit shorter than usual, as I feel that it’s appropriate to focus on just one news item this week: the school shooting in Connecticut.

On Friday morning, 20-year-old Adam Lanza of Newtown began the day by shooting his mother in the face with one of her own guns. He then grabbed at least two more of her firearms, and with no less than three semi-automatic weapons on hand, donned camouflage gear and embarked on a two-mile trek to Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Upon arriving, Lanza forced his way into the school, firing several rounds through the front door in order to bypass the newly-installed security system before marching into the building. As teachers and staff frantically tried to call the police and hide the children, Lanza went on a rampage, entering one classroom after another and killing as many children and adults as he could find.

A chilling intercom broadcast alerted other students and teachers to the danger. It’s not clear whether the intercom was activated for morning announcements, or whether it was switched on for the sole purpose of informing the school, but classes across the school heard their principal’s cries and screams as she lunged at Lanza; her efforts to delay the shooter’s progress cost Principal Dawn Hochsprung her life. While the broadcast was surely traumatic, it served its purpose, giving teachers a few precious extra moments to safeguard their students before Lanza reached them.

As Lanza began his attack, several other courageous individuals took action, some losing their lives in the process of protecting those around them.

One librarian, Mary Ann Jacob, shouted “Lockdown!” to alert her fourth-grade students, then crawled with them into a storage closet and barricaded the door — which had no locking mechanism — with a file cabinet. Only when police officers slipped a badge under the door did the teacher and her students remove the barricade.

First-grade teacher Vicki Leigh Soto “put herself between the kids and the gunman’s bullets.” She hid her first-graders in the closet so that when the shooter arrived, he would think that the room was otherwise empty. The 27-year-old teacher’s ploy worked. Lanza killed her and then, seeing no children in the room, moved elsewhere to look for other targets.

This is the face of a hero.

Even some of the students acted to protect their classmates, keeping their classmates calm and ushering them to safety during the evacuation to a nearby fire station.

But not everyone was fortunate enough to escape the attack. All told, Lanza murdered 20 children and six adult women at the school before killing himself. Counting the culprit and his mother, a total of 28 lives were extinguished in this horrific assault.

All of the 20 children who Lanza murdered came from two first grade classes. According to reports, “It came out pretty quickly that there were almost two full classes missing.” One of the girls who was killed had just turned seven on Tuesday.

Even more disturbingly, every single one of the 12 girls, eight boys, and six adult women who Lanza killed was shot multiple times, according to Connecticut Chief Medical Examiner H. Wayne Carver II. When asked about the autopsy, Carver called it “the worst I have seen.

The attack was the deadliest incident at an elementary school in U.S. history. It is also the second-deadliest shooting at an American school of any level; only the 2006 Virginia Tech assault claimed more lives.

As the shock turns to grief, figures from around the world offer their well wishes to those affected by the tragedy, and parents are reminded just how fragile and precious their children’s lives are, the key question that remains is what could have prompted such viciousness. It does not appear that Lanza did any special preparation for the attack, but rather spontaneously went on a killing spree. So what could have driven Adam Lanza, pictured below, to maliciously kill every child and teacher he could find?

Adam Lanza

Well, that’s one question for which we’re still trying to get answers. Police are still investigating the matter, including why Lanza would target an elementary school, of all places. (Contrary to early reports, it does not appear that Lanza’s mother was a substitute teacher at the school or affiliated with it in any other capacity.)

Lanza reportedly suffered from a personality disorder, and his older brother described him as “somewhat autistic.” Other descriptions included “loner” and “a genius and a computer geek.”

Notably, Lanza visited the school the day before the shooting and got into a “wild argument” with four of the teachers. Three of those teachers were among the six whom Lanza killed; the fourth was not at school on Friday. The sole survivor of the altercation has been interviewed by police, and reporters are speculating that her statement may hold the key to Lanza’s motive.

Shockingly, the mass murder in Connecticut wasn’t the only such plot that day. In Oklahoma, a Bartlesville High School student was arrested in his home at 4:30 a.m. on Friday following reports of a planned attack during that schoolday. Evidently, 18-year-old Sammie Eaglebear Chavez had tried to convince other students to help him lure classmates into the auditorium, where he would then chain the doors shut and start shooting them. He also reportedly planned to place bombs at the auditorium doors and denotate them when police arrived.

Many believe that the tragic events on Friday are bound to stir up fresh debate on gun control laws in the U.S., and some say that the latest shooting may be the tipping point that forces Congress to take action. In a statement responding to the tragedy, President Obama appeared to agree, telling reporters that “We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.

Rather than focusing on laws or politics, however, most are directing their attention to honoring the memories of the children and teachers who we lost two days ago. From candlelight prayer vigils to Twitter mementos, everyone is finding their own way to grieve and to leave one last memento of their parents, children, colleagues, and friends. And you have to feel for those parents who had to ask police to tell them about their children’s final moments.

It is easy for us to think about tragedies like these for a few months and then, if we don’t personally know someone who was involved, move on with our lives. After all, it’s only been a few months since James Holmes’ attack on 70 unsuspecting moviegoers in Aurora, Colorado, yet that incident crossed few people’s minds today. Perhaps this time, we can make the memory, at least, last a little longer. Perhaps this time, if there is anything for us to learn from this massacre, we can keep those lessons with us.

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Ray Kurzweil Joins Google In Full-Time Engineering Director Role; Will Focus On Machine Learning, Language Processing
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Google Maps, Apple Maps, What Each Can’t Find
Why Making Robots Is So Darn Hard
Opening the Doors to the Life of Pi
Scientists pinpoint the age of cheese: 7,000 years old and counting

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