12/15/2012 08:53 am ET Updated Feb 14, 2013


Our worst nightmare -- again. The image of yet another school shattered by gunfire sears our nation -- again. A deeply troubled person devastates multiple lives -- again, with the horror multiplied by the loss of so many young children.

The news of yesterday's tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School hit me first as a mother and grandmother. I saw the faces of the parents surrounding the school, their palpable anguish mirroring what I felt. Every one of us in education tries not to think the unthinkable -- that someone with a gun will try to hurt our students. And then, it happens.

My shock and horror deepened when I spoke with Lori Quigley, the dean of our Esteves School of Education here at Sage. She told me that Dawn Hochsprung, Principal of the Sandy Hook School, was one of the doctoral students in our educational leadership program. Someone with a gun killed one of our Sage graduate students, as she tried to protect those in her own school.

The tears flowed as Dean Quigley spoke about Dawn. Her sunny disposition, her brilliance and her bright smile had captivated the classmates in her cohort and their instructors. That smile, that desire to be better at leadership, that wonderful mind, all gone in an instant.

You never get over the loss of a child. You never get over the loss of a student.

We must stop this carnage. It is time to face the fact that some people should never have guns, and some guns should never be in the hands of those outside the military or law enforcement.

Even though Connecticut's gun laws were some of the strictest in the nation, and in this particular case the guns were registered legally, it was not enough to prevent this tragedy. A frequent common ingredient of these mass murders is mental illness, another area where we are failing as a society.

It is time to face the fact that we are neglecting mental health. We have cut and cut programs for those on the psychological edge; "Not our problem...," but it is. It is our problem when violence touches us all, as it has today. It is our problem when violence touches any of us, as it has today.

We must use this tragedy, and the many that have gone before it, to build the will as citizens to take steps regarding inappropriate gun ownership, caring for those in need of mental health care, and rethinking how we tolerate and sometimes even promote violence. We must demand our elected officials to have the will to do this, and we must support them.

It is the least we can do for Dawn Hochsprung, for the children and teachers who died yesterday, and for ourselves.