It is with heavy hearts that we join with residents in Newtown, Conn., in mourning the loss of those who perished in the second-deadliest school shooting in our nation's history.
A lone male gunman, believed to be in his early 20s, opened fire Friday morning at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where officials indicate his mother was a teacher. By late Friday, the death toll neared 30, including 20 children ages 5 to 10.
The horrific scene is unimaginable to so many of us who are separated by several states and many miles from Newtown. However, while these children were not from our central West Virginia region, their lives were just as precious and valuable to our community.
These were - and will continue to be - America's children. And their legacy will endure as we struggle as a country to define how to prevent such mass tragedy from occurring in any of our nation's neighborhoods.
No community should have to suffer a loss such as this. No child should have to experience such trauma. No parent should have to lay a child to rest before his or her life has had time to flourish on this Earth.
There are few words of comfort we can offer to our fellow Americans as they navigate the complex grieving process. Instead, we want them to know we stand beside them - in our thoughts and prayers - united in mourning as one great nation.
When a grief is too much for one person - or one community - to bear, it must be shared. We must rise as citizens to help shoulder some of this horrendous burden. We also must heed a call to action to help find solutions to this ever-increasing culture of violence.
It is only through working together that we can effect positive change. There must be much dialogue about why these incidents continue to occur and what we can do to best help those who seemingly fall through the cracks of society, turning to violence as their "solution" to aid their tortured souls.
In doing so, these individuals inflict wide-sweeping harm on so many innocent people. This tragedy has the potential to further divide our country, as legislators and lobbyists may exploit it for their own political gain. That, too, can come with great consequences.
We don't know when or if we'll ever have all the answers surrounding Friday's shooting. Our hope is, once the investigation is complete, the Newtown community and the families involved can let the healing process begin.
We'd hate to see anyone revictimize those who have been so badly wronged already.