Over the years, attending horse races and betting online have been refreshing diversions for me from the inevitable vicissitudes of everyday life. Whenever I needed a break, I usually headed to the racetrack or often, in later years, to my computer. Like all sports and entertainment, horse racing is meant to offer a respite from the real world most people live and work in, an escape to a land of make believe.

Yesterday, I intended to wager online in the afternoon or evening, until it happened.

The news broke like a bolt of lightning that a then-undetermined number of children and adults had been gunned down in a grade school in a small town in Connecticut, where crime was rare. As the reports came in, it turned out that the killer was a former honors student. In the end, his shooting spree infamously turned out to be the second worst in American history, behind the massacre at Virginia Tech University in 2007.

My thoughts kept coming back to the unimaginable grief that the parents and relatives of the deceased must be experiencing and I thought of my grandchildren, especially a grandson in kindergarten who is the same age as the innocent children whose lives were extinguished in Connecticut.

Several psychiatrists explained on television and the radio that shooters may be delusional, or narcissistic, etc. The security experts searched for suggestions about how to curtail shootings at grade schools, shopping malls, movie theatres, and elsewhere. A pastor talked about the evil that lurks in every human. Really, no one has any answers.

The words to a mournful country song by the late Vern Gosdin came to my mind. The lyrics were written for another context, but nonetheless they seemed appropriate for the families whose precious children were gone in a flash and whose days and nights will always be haunted by the horrible memory:

“You don’t know about lonely or how long the nights can be till you’ve lived through the stories still living in me… You don’t know about lonely till it’s chiseled in stone.”

I finally tuned out the news and read a book about Thomas Jefferson. Then went to bed sad—for the deceased, their families, and mankind.

(Saturday’s Wall Street Journal reported that twelve of the twenty-three deadliest shootings since the mid-1960s have occurred in the 21st century, and four of them took place in 2012. Most of the massacres were in the United States.)

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