In the Wake of the School Shootings, I'm Trying to Convince Myself that Anne Frank Was Right: Good People Are Still Out There

By Diana L. Chapman

First a man shot his girlfriend to death in San Pedro on the street behind my house before killing himself. I knew him and his kids.

I also knew that Johnny O'Kane's actions had torn away the tethers of humanity, leaving two families in utter despair.

Still, I believed. Ever since I read "The Diary of Anne Frank" when I was 12 years old, I trusted the words Anne wrote before she died in the Holocaust: that people were still good at heart. I believe that, despite everything I've heard and written about--from murders to baby kidnappings to robberies--first as a journalist, now as a blogger. I still believe it even now following the horrendous shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, where 20 children and six adults were killed.

I believe this while knowing there has been a string of brutal attacks in China over the past couple of years where men have entered schools and chopped and hacked away at youngsters--killing as many as 21, one as young as 4--with axes, hammers, cleavers and knives. The most recent occurred on the  same day as the Sandy Hook massacre, when a 36-year-old attacked children at a primary school, cutting off fingers and severing ears.

By now, as so many journalists are, I should be a cynical, skeptical person who walks with a jaded heart and the knowledge that the world, in essence, is upside down. I can't bear to think about the pain those Sandy Hook parents are suffering‑‑tonight, in the morning and in every waking moment, knowing some of those tiny bodies were riddled by more than 11 bullets from an assault rifle.

But here I am, still clinging to Anne's words, statements she started penning at age 13 while in hiding from the Gestapo. Reading some of those is like pulling up a soothing quilt of warmth and protection.

"It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out," Anne scribbled in her diary while her Jewish family lived in unbearable conditions during World War II. "Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart."

Once her family and others were discovered, they were forced into concentration camps where nearly all their lives were extinguished, including Anne's. Her father, Otto, survived, found his daughter's diary and shared it with the world.

There must be a reason he did that -- a reason for us to lay our heads on when the world has once again gone "crazy" as she says and worked its way into another one of its darkest corners in history. We've been layered with tragedy upon tragedy across our country.

Rampaging gunmen repeatedly committed shootings of the innocents in the past six months alone; two adults killed this week in an Oregon Mall as people shopped for the holidays; 70 shot and 12 killed in July at a Colorado theater as movie-goers settled into a night of watching good versus evil in the new Batman flick -- and now the perilous attack at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.

But there were so, so many even before that.

It seems we are not any closer to an end of this insane mayhem and misery, horror tilting our nation repeatedly to yet another disaster and now we've lost Noah, Emilie, Catherine, Jessica, Olivia, Ana, Chase and 13 other elementary students who will never celebrate another Christmas, another birthday or read another book.

If we listen to Anne, it is time to change. It's time to commit to gun control. It's time to give support to families dealing with the horrors of mental illness and not just run away. We can no longer wait.

The deaths, especially of such little children who were just beginning to flourish and bloom like beautiful cherry trees, defies our sensibilities.

"There is an urge and rage in people to destroy, to kill, to murder," Anne wrote, "and until mankind, without exception, undergoes great change, wars will be waged, everything that has been built up, cultivated and grown, will be destroyed and disfigured, after which mankind will have to begin all over again."

With all our rage and grief, we might want to reflect back on the wisdom of Anne, who seemed to grasp and comprehend matters beyond her years. "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."

We  no longer need to wait. We must take advantage of those that are still good at heart that are left in the world.

Take for instance, Gene Rosen, 69, a grandfather and retired psychologist, who found six small children huddled in his driveway immediately after the Sandy Hook shooting who told him they couldn't go back to school because their teacher had been shot and killed after she hid them. They had escaped, a boy told him.

Rosen didn't wait even though he didn't know exactly what happened. He took the children into his house, gave them toys and juice and listened to their stories about their teacher being shot. He called every one of their parents, who came and picked them up.

He later blubbered on the air about how brave the children were and how he hoped to see, cherish and hug them all again. He said he loved them.

Rosen is the reason I still believe in Anne's words. He gives me hope. And "Where there's hope," Anne wrote, "there's life.

Diana can be reached at hartchap@cox.net

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