The counting of words is an imprecise science.
Does a word and its plural count as two words? Does a word with two different meanings count twice? As a result, it is impossible to say how many words there are in the English language, though some estimates put the minimum at a quarter-million and an upper level guesstimate at three times that number.
Suffice it to say there are hundreds of thousands of words available to us for use.
And none of them are sufficient to capture the brutally raw emotions felt in the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
No single word can capture the pain, the anger, the fear, the revulsion, the sympathy, the loss that combined in shaping the nation’s response to news that a gunman had gone beserk in an elementary school, indiscriminately killing children and adults alike.
Pain, because as a caring nation we hurt for others. Anger, that we are seemingly unable to stop the sort of violence that time and again finds an outlet against those who are innocent. Fear that the same thing could happen in our community. Revulsion that any human being could be so vile. Sympathy, for all of those involved. Loss, of young lives that will never be fulfilled.
There is no one word to capture all that, but a grieving nation feels it deep in the very marrow of its being.
President Barack Obama on Friday said that “our hearts are broken.” Indeed they are. Again. Add Sandy Creek to the list that includes Virginia Tech, Columbine, and far too many other deadly venues.
We search for reasons, for rationales. We look for answers, realizing even as we do that we can’t even properly shape the questions in such a way as to ever help us understand such an act.
In the days to come there will be plenty of expert commentary and finger pointing – availability of guns, mental illness, a violent society, a social structure torn asunder, family problems, community problems, personal problems …
And none of those will make us understand.
There are no words. Only tears. So many tears.