The world responds to Sandy Hook

December 17, 2012

The United States has spent the last three days in mourning, but we haven’t mourned alone.

Across the country and around the world, people have taken to social media to express loss, confusion, disbelief -- and, somewhat unusually, wide support for the United States, after a man killed his mother on Friday and then blasted into a Connecticut school and murdered 26 other people -- 20 of them first-graders. 

It’s a comforting indication, perhaps, that tragedy really does bring us together. While we disagree on religion and gun policy, there’s a universal grief summed up in this much-shared tweet by Mexican essayist Mauricio Montiel Figueiras: “I see the faces of the children who died in Sandy Hook, the smiles of all these unfulfilled promises,” he wrote on Sunday. “That is the end of the world.”

The reflections have been particularly poignant in countries that have suffered similar acts of horror. In the United Kingdom, mentions of the 1996 Dunblane massacre are pouring in at a rate of more than 100 an hour. That shooting, also in a primary school, left 16 children and one teacher dead. Dunblane’s community center posted on Facebook that it would begin a condolence book and hold a week of candlelight vigils for the Sandy Hook Elementary victims.

 

 

In Australia, tweeters made frequent mention of the Port Arthur massacre that killed 35 and wounded 23 at a popular historic site in 1996. Here there’s plenty of talk about gun control. Australia passed massive reforms after Port Arthur and now boasts one of the lowest gun homicide rates in the world.

 

 

 

Some people in countries where America's public image isn't always sterling, including Afghanistan and Iraq, offered support and sympathy. “Pray and light candles for the angels lost in America and Syria,” this tweet from Syria reads.

 

But it’s the responses from China that might be the most moving, since Henan Province just suffered its own elementary school attack. On Friday, a 36-year-old man stabbed 22 children in a primary school there, injuring two of them seriously. That’s only the most recent in a string of school stabbings in China, which have killed nearly 20 children and injured more than 50.

On Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-like network, “netizens gave an outpouring of condolences for Americans affected by the Newtown tragedy,” GlobalPost reports. The hashtag “Honoring Ordinary Heroes” trended today with posts about Victoria Soto, the Sandy Hook teacher who died saving her students from the gunman.

“Today is a sad day for the entire world,” one Weibo-user wrote, in a translation by GlobalPost.

“They should learn from us and adopt gun control,” wrote another.

Calls like these are growing both inside the United States and abroad, of course -- and they’ll get even louder as the gun policy debate winds up. For now, however, most of the top tweets from abroad sound a lot like these, from the Philippines and Chile.

 

“I’m terribly sorry for the children of Sandy Hook,” @Detasmania tweets. “How can so much evil exist?”

Caitlin Dewey runs The Intersect blog, writing about digital and Internet culture. Before joining the Post, she was an associate online editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.
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Max Fisher · December 17, 2012