The news reports from Newtown, Conn., are difficult to follow with a dry eye. The events at Sandy Hook Elementary School are difficult to comprehend with a clear mind.
The losses are devastating, the enormity of the act bewildering.
Like the rest of the country, we share the grief of the people of Newtown, although many of us struggle to comprehend its depth for those whose loved ones were among the 26 people killed by the gunman at the school.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to each of them.
But there are stories of heroism, dignity and resolve amid the sorrow. Staff members such as teacher's aide Rachel D'Avino and teacher Victoria Soto, young women in their 20s who died trying to protect their students. Principal Dawn Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Sherlach were killed while trying to rush the attacker.
Their actions in the face of dire danger are inspiring, the way many of us hope we would act ourselves.
There also are the many survivors. There are students and teachers who hid in closets and under desks, waiting in fear until they were found and brought to safety. There are emergency personnel who were the first responders on the scene, medical examiners and other officials who helped in the investigation.
Many of them will struggle with the aftereffects of this long after it has passed, and we hope they will get the support they need.
There is no good that comes from a tragedy of this scale, and no answer to the question "why?" that could ever make any sense.
However, to allow this tragedy to pass without any substantial changes to our country's laws on assault weapons would be a mistake.
The fact that the weapons the gunman used in the killing spree – which included 20 children – were legally purchased and registered by his mother is a clear indication that our country needs to restore its ban on assault weapons.
We have banned these military-style weapons in the past, and we must do so again. Unlike hunting rifles and shotguns, tools that serve a legitimate purpose in the daily lives and pastimes of many Americans, assault weapons are designed to kill many people quickly and with efficiency.
It is not unreasonable to restrict public access to certain weaponry.
In fact, we already do so. The National Firearms Act bans machine guns and short-barreled shotguns (the gangster's weapons of choice during Prohibition) as well as bombs, grenades and the like.
Those weapons were having an unacceptable effect on American society, and so too are assault weapons.
The pain we feel in reading this story should be a powerful incentive to bring about changes that can protect against it happening again.
It is our leaders' responsibility not only to speak about their sorrow but also to act.