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.”
[Veo los rostros de los niños que murieron en Sandy Hook, las sonrisas de todas esas promesas que no se cumplirán. Ese es el fin del mundo.]
— El hombre de tweed (@Elhombredetweed) December 17, 2012
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.
Hold those you love dearly tonight.Hearts are breaking around the world for those poor children.And no more so than in Dunblane.
— Robin Galloway (@djrobingalloway) December 14, 2012
We banned guns here after Dunblane. There've been no school shootings since. Banning firearms works. The UK is living proof. RIP poor souls.
— Lani (@lanibeno) December 14, 2012
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.
After 1996 Port Arthur massacre of 35 ppl, PM John Howard banned semi-automatic rifles. Australia hasn't had a massacre since #sandyhook
— Miranda Devine (@mirandadevine) December 14, 2012
Mum brings up the port Arthur massacre now and then and you can tell it haunts her. Our gun laws changed after that.
— ssharewah (@wewhyun) December 15, 2012
When we had the Port Arthur massacre we jumped on it as an excuse for really tough gun laws. Time to do that… this time, America?
— Yagan Kiely (@yagankiely) December 15, 2012
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.
— ayman sarhan ❤'s (@ayman0sarhan) December 15, 2012
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.
Connecticut </3 Really, why does it have to be children? ㅠㅠ
— onehundred-miles (@29erickaaaaa) December 15, 2012
Que pena mas grande por los niños de Sandy Hook...como puede existir tanta maldad!?...
— Rodrigo Velasquez Q. (@Detasmania) December 15, 2012
“I’m terribly sorry for the children of Sandy Hook,” @Detasmania tweets. “How can so much evil exist?”