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Silence often serves us best amid tragedy
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Television, especially the 24-hour news channels, has an insatiable appetite for the talking head. The idea is simple: Get someone to appear before a camera and weigh in on the news of the day.

However, there are times when the so-called experts should keep their mouths shut. My case-in-point: the horrible tragedy in Newtown, Conn.

Within hours, it seemed that everyone who had an opinion on gun control or mental health issues was giving their 2 cents on what we should or shouldn’t have done. It started almost immediately and hasn’t stopped.

I have heard it said that there are no words in the languages of the world to describe a parent who has lost a child. The timeline of life tells us that children should bury their parents, not the other way around.

Quite frankly, I don’t care if you are for guns or against guns; this is not the time to speak. How painful it must be for one of the 20 parents to hear someone say that things might have turned out differently if one thing or another had taken place.

How does the family of the school principal, who threw herself at the gunman and was killed, react when they hear people say, “If she only had a gun ...” That would be like going to the funeral of a cancer victim and saying, “If she had only chosen a different doctor ...”

The other part of this that makes me angry is that so many politicians are taking advantage of the situation, not because they really care about the people of Newtown, but because they are trying to advance their own careers.

My friend, Lonice Barrett, is married to a retired kindergarten teacher. He can’t speak about this tragedy without his eyes welling up in tears. “I will never look at a group of little children the same way,” he told me.

First and foremost, we should let these people grieve. These parents are teaching the world by their example of courage and faith. Let them bury their little ones without the continual cries of “What if ...”

Then, it is Christmas. Congress and state legislatures are not meeting this week and the debate over any policy changes will be lengthy. Let these dear people attempt to put together some kind of observance of the holidays with their remaining family.

These 20 children and the faculty members of the school were beautiful people. The stories I have read about the children and their interests have touched my soul. The pictures of their incredibly cute little faces at first will make you smile, then, you just want to cry when you realize that this little life has tragically ended.

When I think back on my elementary school days, I can easily remember my beloved teachers and principals. I remember learning to spell “principal.” You could always remember that the principal was your “pal.”

These dear teachers, administrators and their principal were also loved, just as they loved those children. A community is hurting and America is watching. It won’t happen, but we should stand silently and let them bury their dead in peace.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on

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