It can’t be done. But one thing that would settle this gun controversy for good would be if the police published the real images from those classrooms at Sandy Hook. The crime scene photos or, even worse, panoramic video. Two classrooms filled with little kids’ jaws and eyeballs and brains and guts, surrounded by all the things that first-graders bring to school and work on in class. We could play it in an endless loop on CNN, just like the second plane into the Twin Towers from 9/11. Yeah, it would traumatize the shit out of everyone. The whole nation would never stop throwing up and seeking counseling. But, that’s the point. If people would face up to the reality of what happened, there would be no debate at all.
But the right-wing reaction to the Newtown shooting, President Obama’s executive actions, and proposed legislation to curb gun violence make it painfully clear that we’re not dealing with normal circumstances. So, maybe it’s the shock and anger talking, but there’s at least one group I think should take a good, long look at the Sandy Hook crime scene photos: the “Sandy Hook Truthers.”
Yes, there really are Newtown truthers.
But in the crazy world of Sandy Hook conspiracy theories, this one may be the worst yet. (Maybe you’ve already heard some of the others, like the one about fantasy ties between the gunman’s family and the LIBOR banking scandal and a related theory about the Aurora shooting and the “Dark Knight Rises.”) Most of the theories are really pieces of a larger meta-theory: that the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax, perhaps by the Obama administration, designed to stir demand for gun control.
In the latest angle, theorists think they have found “absolute proof” of a conspiracy to defraud the American people. “You reported in December that this little girl had been killed,” a reader emailed Salon in response to a story. “She has been found, and photographed with President Obama.”
The girl in question is Emilie Parker, a 6-year-old who was shot multiple times and killed at Sandy Hook. But for conspiracy theorists, the tears her family shed at her funeral, the moving eulogy from Utah’s governor, and the entire shooting spree are fake. Welcome to the world where Sandy Hook didn’t really happen.
“I don’t know what to do,” sighed Gene Rosen. “I’m getting hang-up calls, I’m getting some calls, I’m getting emails with, not direct threats, but accusations that I’m lying, that I’m a crisis actor, ‘how much am I being paid?’” Someone posted a photo of his house online. There have been phony Google+ and YouTube accounts created in his name, messages on white supremacist message boards ridiculing the “emotional Jewish guy,” and dozens of blog posts and videos “exposing” him as a fraud. One email purporting to be a business inquiry taunted: “How are all those little students doing? You know, the ones that showed up at your house after the ‘shooting.’ What is the going rate for getting involved in a gov’t sponsored hoax anyway?”
“The quantity of the material is overwhelming,” he said. So much so that a friend shields him from most of it by doing daily sweeps of the Web so Rosen doesn’t have to. His wife is worried for their safety. He’s logged every email and every call, and consulted with a retired state police officer, who took the complaint seriously but said police probably can’t do anything at the moment; he plans to do the same with the FBI.
What did Rosen do to deserve this? One month ago, he found six little children and a bus driver at the end of the driveway of his home in Newtown, Conn. “We can’t go back to school,” one little boy told Rosen. “Our teacher is dead.” He brought them inside and gave them food and juice and toys. He called their parents. He sat with them and listened to their shocked accounts of what had happened just down the street inside Sandy Hook Elementary, close enough that Rosen heard the gunshots.
It’s come to this. A man who should by all rights be praised for taking these children into his home and sheltering them after finding them sitting in his driveway. The kids had just run from their school after all hell broke lose when Adam Lanza walked into their school with these guns, that the NRA and its supporters want to keep in circulation:
And proceeded to slaughter their classmates, teachers, and principal.
As it happened, those kids and their bus driver couldn’t have picked a better driveway in which to stop than the one belonging to Rosen: a retired psychologist who listened to their stories, gave them toys, and got enough information to call their frantic parents.
He walked the children past his small goldfish pond with its running waterfall, and the garden he made with his two grandchildren, into the small yellow house he shares with his wife.
He ran upstairs and grabbed an armful of stuffed animals. He gave those to the children, along with some fruit juice, and sat with them as the two boys described seeing their teacher being shot.
"They said he had a big gun and a little gun,” said Rosen, who didn’t want to discuss other details the children shared.
Rosen called the children’s parents, using cellphone numbers obtained from the school bus company, and they came and retrieved their children.
One little girl, he said, spent the entire ordeal clutching a small stuffed Dalmatian to her chest and staring out the window looking for her mommy.
In the past month, our oldest son has described to me the evacuation drills that his school conducts regularly. He’s told me details about where students might go an shelter after an evacuation, and wait for the parents to come and get them. Like the 12-year-old girl who wrote to President Obama, my son’s reality is that his school must routinely have “crazed gunman drills” the same way that my school had routine fire drills.
Our son, and children all over the country, go to school each day and live with the real possibility that a someone wielding an assault rifle and enough ammo to take out an entire school might just do so at their school. Like the children who escaped to Rosen’s driveway, they could step off the school bus and into a war zone.
We and other parents all over the country put our children on school buses, walk them to school, drop them off at school, or watch them as they walk to school by themselves. As we do so, we live with the real possibility that the same thing that happened at Sandy Hook Elementary could happen at our children’s schools. We could be sitting in front of the television or the computer, or listening to rush hour radio, when we find out that our children’s school is the site of the next school shooting.
As a parent, it’s too much for my brain to even process. It simply shuts down at the thought.
But if the unthinkable should happen at our children’s school, before there’s time to execute an evacuation plan, if they should escape like those six children did, I hope that they would find shelter with someone like Rosen until we could get to them and get our arms around them. The person who took them in, sheltered them, comforted them, and called us to tell us our children were alive and safe would be my hero.
Instead of being hailed as a hero, gun-loving, right-wing “truthers” have made his life hell. They’ve posted his personal information online. They’ve created fake social media accounts in his name. They’ve harassed him with phone calls and emails. Rosen has gone public about the harassment directed at him, in the hope that there is some way to “morally same” these people. At the same time, he considered that may have brought it on himself.
“I wanted to speak about the bravery of the children, and it kind of helped me work through this,” Rosen told Salon of his decision to give interviews to the media. “I guess I kind of opened myself up to this."
I only hope that when the next school shooting happens (and, let’s face it, there will be a next one), I only hope that Rosen’s story doesn’t make people think twice about helping the children who might escape, lest they become the next target for these people.
Until I started reading about these people, I couldn’t have told you what the hell a “crisis actor” was, and I’m still not entirely sure. It seems to be a term that has something to do with international relations and foreign policy. Near as I can tell anyway. But in some far-flung corner of the right-wing fever swamp, the term appears to apply to people that the government allegedly employs to fake a “crisis” in order to push some agenda or another. (And then apparently lets them wander around and get their pictures taken with the president, when they’re supposed to be dead.)
The term is new to me, but the concept isn’t.
As I wrote previously, and the video above states, before the “Sandy Hook Truthers” there were “Tucson Truthers” who went so far as to try to get into one victim’s home in an attempt to search for “evidence” of a hoax.
There were multiple right-wing conspiracy theories about the Aurora shooting, all of which revolved around the idea that the Obama administration had staged the shooting, and possibly even hired and trained James Holmes to carry it out, to create an opening for the government to nix the Second Amendment and start confiscating guns.
One of the many theories that sprung up after the Columbine massacre was that guns control advocates conspired to use the Columbine shooting to defeat a proposed conceal. Another claimed that the “New World Order” was behind Columbine, using the shooting to scare the public in to accepting gun-control measures.
All of this would be laughable if the conspiracy theorists weren’t reaching into the lives of victims and people like Rosen. It would be a joke, if it weren’t for the fact that some of our lawmakers are themselves “truthers,” with the power to inject their conspiracy theorizing national policy.
I wouldn’t want to see the images from Sandy Hook myself. Again, as a parent, I don’t think I could handle it. But that’s because I don’t doubt that it happened. I don’t doubt that Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary and used his mom’s automatic rifle - that wouldn’t be out of place on a battlefield or in a war zone - and enough ammunition to take out half the school. I don’t doubt that he killed 20 schoolchildren and six staff members, shooting them multiple times.
However, during the dark days of the George W. Bush administration I heard more than one conservative comment that liberals who were opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan should be forced to look at the most graphic images of what was found at Ground Zero in the aftermath of 9/11. The idea was that somehow viewing these images would somehow move us to support a war against a country that didn’t attack us on 9/11, in search of WMD’s that weren’t even there.
There’s a part of me that thinks these people should see the "devastating set of injuries," that the medical examiner saw in the course of his doing his job, of which he said “This probably is the worst I have seen or the worst that I know any of my colleagues having seen.” They should have to see in full color the wounds - three to 11 per victim - that were so bad that victims families had to identify their relatives by photos of the victims faces. The should have to see everything the public employees who took those pictures had to see in the course of doing their jobs.
This is Newtown’s chief of police, Michael Kehoe, two weeks after the shooting at Sandy Hook.
" ... absolutely horrific ... "
He’s been a police officer in town for 34-and-a-half years, chief since 2001. He was one of the first nine officers into the school on Dec. 14.
" ... to believe that somebody would do that ... "
Kehoe sat at his desk Friday, calm and cordial and somber, a green-and-white ribbon pinned by a tiny gold angel to his crisp white dress shirt. His team was trained and ready for an active-shooter scenario, but there hadn’t been one in Newtown in decades - perhaps not since 1975, when the proprietor of the Sandy Hook Hotel shot and killed two Hell’s Angels in an act that was deemed self-defense. Before Dec. 14, the last local crime to draw continuous national news coverage was an airline pilot’s murder of his wife; he disposed of her body via a wood chipper near Lake Zoar in 1986, and the trial lasted for weeks.
Those incidents pale in comparison to what happened two weeks ago, Kehoe said. Since then, his department has been consumed by the two ghastly crime scenes (the first being that of the shooter’s mother), by attempts at defrauding or violating the privacy of the victims’ families by a battery of media requests and intrusions that have encouraged a no-comment policy for now. Connecticut State Police officials aren’t talking about the event and, last week, a judge in Danbury Superior Court extended the seal on five related search warrants for another 90 days as the investigation continues.
On Thursday afternoon at 3:30, EMT Mike Collins returned to the steepled station, located on a former gas-station plot, after attending a single-vehicle accident on the highway (driver dozed off, injuries were minor). With 2-and-a-half hours left in his 12-hour shift, Collins considered the conundrum of arriving at a scene that can’t be triaged. On Dec. 14, the ambulance corps was adrenalized and ready to serve. Collins was halfway to Sandy Hook in his own vehicle when word came over the radio that the ambulances were being sent back to the station.
He sat in the station for the next 10 hours as his fellow EMTs returned, visibly shaken from responding to a tragedy of such magnitude and irreversibility.
“In my mind, it’s a nonvisual, it’s an imaginary scene,” said Collins, 61, who joined the corps in 2005, when he moved from California to Newtown for the peace and quiet. “Other people saw the real scene ... It was a heavy load on all those guys. I saw one of the police officers that Sunday night, and this guy was a tough cookie, and you could see his eyes were all red from crying.”
Maybe the “Truthers” should have to see what the six kids who found shelter the Gene Rosen had to see. (Remember, at least one boy witnessed his teacher being shot.) Maybe they should have to see what surviving Sandy Hook students were told to cover their eyes to avoid seeing as they were evacuated.