Here's what broke my heart.
One of our young reporters at USA TODAY tweeted this in the wake of the Texas school shooting, which erupted less than two weeks after a rampage at a Buffalo supermarket:
“After the horrific shooting in Buffalo, I wrote in a story the words: ‘Days after the nation’s deadliest mass shooting this year…’
"That was less than a week ago. That didn’t even hold up a week. I have no words."
Ten people would die in the racist attack in Buffalo; 19 children and two teachers perished in Uvalde, Texas.
I am not a young reporter. I lived and worked through Columbine in 1999, the school shooting that rocked the nation in its horror and audacity. USA TODAY wrote about Columbine and its many shocking permutations for months, maybe years. I remember USA TODAY going full force in those pre-digital days, doing what we could to translate the horror, honor the fallen, make sense of the unthinkable.
Somehow this became normal
Then there was Sandy Hook in 2012. The appalling shooting of little children shook the foundations, one of which left my even seasoned USA TODAY colleagues jangled beyond belief. We wrote about the families, the community, the undying hope that this was the game changer shooting that would extinguish the carnage.
There was Charleston in 2015. The bloodbath at a humble South Carolina church seemed unparalleled at the time. We would write about this tragedy for weeks, trying to capture the horror and be redeemed by the amazing people of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, who returned to their Bible study one week after the slaughter.
And Parkland, Florida, in 2018 – where after another school massacre, young people rose up and demanded the nation stop the madness.
But somewhere along the way this grim and gutting timeline started to change. The shootings escalated and became such a sad but normal piece of everyday life and everyday journalism that it became almost rote: We would have a main shooting story that might last for just a few days, a where-did-the-shooter-get-the-gun story, a victims profile, the memorials, some bigger-picture pieces.
And the haunting kicker: Within what seemed like a matter of minutes/days/weeks, there would be another shooting, and we, like the rest of the world would move on.
Telling people it wasn't always like this
It is crushing to see our young reporters angst over the accelerated rate of this devastation. I want to tell them it wasn’t always like this, it wasn’t always this insane, how at least the bloodshed was spaced out enough to give us a chance to catch our breath and do our best to make sense to readers what this all meant.
SANDY HOOK FAMILIES TRAUMATIZED: They thought Sandy Hook would 'wake up' the US. Uvalde school shooting proves it didn't.
But I feel the same familiar ache, knowing that the minute a new shooting happens in this breakneck bulleted world, the people and the pain of the last one can easily slip from memory.
I don’t know the answers, but I do know this: Journalists or not, we can’t forget. We can’t forget the people of Atlanta, Santa Fe, Oxford, Buffalo, Boulder, El Paso and beyond. We should remember Columbine, Sandy Hook, Charleston. And Uvalde.
We need to honor their memories, preserve their stories, and somehow keep the faith that this will not always be this way – the way it always is.
Susan Miller is Senior Breaking News Editor at USA TODAY
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: School shootings - We have to hope these tragedies won't be the normal