By now, the events that happened in Newtown, Connecticut, have spread across the news feed. Even now, countless Facebook and Twitter feeds call for prayer for the parents and relatives of the children and teachers killed in the tragedy. Some remind us of God’s presence, in spite of the appearance of this great evil. In this time of tragedy, I want to remind you of a victim of this crime that many will overlook.
Ryan Lanza and his family, to be more precise. Consider Ryan’s perspective. On the day of the tragedy, the police detained and questioned him. In case you have any naivete about this, please understand that when the police pick someone up as a suspect, they treat them as guilty and assume that they are guilty until the suspect convinces them otherwise. That “innocent until proven guilty” stuff is an idealistic falsehood that doesn’t exist in the real world (consider: why would you put a presumed innocent person in handcuffs).
Eventually, authorities released him, and at some point he found out that both his brother and mother died. Ryan lost two family members in this tragedy, and worse: his brother committed the crime. Ryan now has to reconcile the fact that his own brother killed his mother (and himself). Compounding the issue, Ryan will look for comfort from his friends, but find none since they will subconsciously (and some consciously) blame him for the actions of his brother. He will bury his brother in secret-assuming that the police do not retain the body for several months for investigative purposes-for fear of protestors who will choose to inform him of his brother’s eternal destination. They’ll probably use signs and bullhorns. All in Christian love, of course. He’ll get death threats, angry phone calls in the middle of the night, and accusations of impropriety.
He’ll bury his mother. A few gawkers will come to see the mother of the killer. Few will cry with or for him and his family. Given the size of the town he probably knew some of the parents and/or the kids. People will have memorial services for all those who died, but he will be politely, but firmly, asked to skip attendance. They don’t want his presence interfering with the other mourners, after all. Reporters will come to his house so that “he can tell his brother’s story” and then cherry-pick the parts so that they can create a news report that will generate buzz. Politicians will use his brother’s story and face to score political points. People will make careers out of this tragedy.
Ryan and his family will mourn alone.
Shunned and outcast, the Lanza family will eventually leave Newtown and settle somewhere else. Probably in another state. Probably praying that no one recognizes him. For all intents and purposes, Ryan’s life as he knew it is over.
As you say a prayer for the family members of those who died, I ask you to add one name to that list:
He too, has suffered a great tragedy. Unfortunately for him, he’s probably going to deal with it in solitude, and with a distinct lack of empathy or understanding from others.