We assemble facts, names, lists, numbers. We look for character traits, analogies, consequences. But how much of that will enable us to solve the same impossible puzzle that assails the nation: they were children, five- and six-year-olds, in a gym class, doing what five- and six-year- olds do, laughing, playing, moaning, shouting, hoping, dreaming. Children in a gym class. How could it be? How could anyone, in however twisted a mind, turn children into creatures to be killed?
At times like this the modern world is so unfathomable. A deranged man kills children in a violent slaughter. Yet there is no calculus we can use to tell us whether or how our age is, in some grand moral scheme, any better or worse than previous ages. What is sure is that, unlike those times, these days we know instantly almost as much as the people of Dunblane know about what happened to their children in that gym class.
As a result, Dunblane belongs to us all, at once, wherever we are. We share the shock and disbelief. We share the jumble of feelings of sadness, impotence, outrage. If you are a parent, any parent in the land this morning, it will have been almost too painful to watch the scenes at Dunblane yesterday. Today you will feel a wave of relief that your child was not in that gym, did not see that man, was not robbed of life, forced to succumb to that death.
There will be questions. Can school security be improved? Should firearms owners be psychological profiled? Are gun laws strict enough ? But they can wait. Dunblane this morning must feel like the worst place on earth. We can only offer its people sympathy and space, to come to terms with their terrible loss and abiding grief. And the other thing we can do is quietly to rejoice in our children and resolve to protect and nurture them.