Remember the victims

Six-year-old James Mattioli loved recess and math, the Associated Press reported. His family described him as a “numbers guy” who came up with insights beyond his years to explain the relationship between numbers.

James also loved sports and was a loud and enthusiastic singer. His family recalled that he was a thoughtful and considerate child, recently choosing to forgo a gift for himself and use the money to buy his grandfather a mug for Christmas.

Tragically, James was one of 20 children and six adults murdered last Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

We mention young James Mattioli here because, as is always the case in these senseless mass murders, it is the killer who receives most of the attention, whether he lives or dies.

News reporters sift through every detail of the murderer’s life that can be gleaned from public documents, social media and recollections of friends, family members, teachers or colleagues. Psychologists are trotted out to attempt to explain the motive for the killings.

All that is understandable, given our desire to try to comprehend what occurred and suggest ways we might prevent similar attacks from occurring in the future.

But what’s too often lacking in the aftermath of terrible events such as this are detailed looks at the victims. Names are eventually listed and photos released. But efforts to provide in-depth portraits of those whose lives were stolen from them — and from their families — are usually lacking. Offering insights into the lives of youngsters who have lived only six or seven years is particularly difficult.

We don’t have detailed portraits of any of the victims of last week’s school shooting. But, thanks to AP, we can offer glimpses into the lives of James Mattioli and some of his classmates.

✔ Jessica Rekos, 6, “loved everything about horses,” her parents said in a statement. “She devoted her free time to watching horse movies, reading horse books, drawing horses and writing stories about horses.” When she turned 10, they promised, she could have a horse of her own. The Rekoses described their daughter as “a creative, beautiful little girl who loved playing with her little brothers, Travis and Shane.”

✔ A year ago, 6-year-old Ana Marquez-Greene was reveling in holiday celebrations with her extended family on her first trip to Puerto Rico. The girl’s grandmother said the family moved to Connecticut just two months ago, drawn from Canada in part by Sandy Hook’s sterling reputation.

A video shows a confident Ana hitting every note as she sings “Come, Thou Almighty King.” She flashes a big grin and waves to the camera when she’s done.

✔ Olivia Rose Engel, 6, loved school, did very well in math and reading, and was “insightful for her age,” said a statement released by her uncle. She was also a tennis and soccer player and took art classes, swimming and dance lessons. A Daisy Girl Scout, she enjoyed musical theater. Olivia was learning the rosary and always led grace before the family dinner.

These children and all of the victims of Friday’s attack had lives snuffed out far too early. Remember them.


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