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A man and woman view the newly-added crosses bearing the names of those killed in Tuesday's mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on May 26.Callaghan O'Hare/The New York Times News Service

Gus Carlson is a New York-based columnist for The Globe and Mail.

Dan Krauss didn’t volunteer to become a voice of comfort to tragedy-torn communities. Fate recruited him.

And even though Uvalde, Tex., is more than 3,000 kilometres from his home in Newtown, Conn., Mr. Krauss feels the shock and sorrow of the elementary school shooting that killed 19 students and two teachers this week as if it were his own.

“It just breaks my heart,” Mr. Krauss said. “It’s senseless.”

Mr. Krauss is uniquely qualified in the heartbreak of senseless violence. Almost 10 years ago, he was a parent who lived through the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, about 100 kilometres northeast of New York. Twenty-six people were killed in the rampage, including 20 children aged 5 to 10 and six staff members. Mr. Krauss’s second-grade daughter escaped, but still struggles with fears of crowded spaces.

The 20-year-old gunman, a former student who suffered from mental illness, shot himself.

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Since the Sandy Hook tragedy, which has the grim distinction of being the deadliest mass shooting at an elementary school in U.S. history, Mr. Krauss has been invited to speak to communities across the United States and abroad.

Among his audiences: parents and students at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where a 19-year-old gunman killed 17 people and injured 17 on Valentine’s Day in 2018; families of victims of the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas that killed 60 and injured more than 400; and survivors and families of the deadly 2017 fire at Grenfell Tower in London that killed 72 and injured dozens more.

“Speaking to these communities is humbling and rewarding,” Mr. Krauss said. “I never expected talking about what our community went through would be so helpful.”

Mr. Krauss acknowledges the Uvalde shootings should prompt more serious conversations among lawmakers about gun regulations and among health care experts about the destigmatization and underfunding of mental-health research and treatment – a toxic recipe for such violence to “happen over and over again.”

But right now, he said, the Uvalde community needs to focus on healing, and try to separate itself from the political and media storm swirling around the tragedy. He said that storm threatened to divide the Newtown community in its time of grieving, and made an impossible situation intolerable.

“I try not to be political,” he said. “Of course, handling guns sensibly and mental health in this country are important aspects. But there are so many other facets to this.”

The healing, he said, will require equal parts tolerance, compassion and hard reality. And it will take time.

“It is very important for people in the community to realize there is no going back to the way it was,” he said. “Your life has profoundly changed. You need to accept that.”

He likened the seismic shift to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, on New York and Washington, when “our lives, our country and our world changed.”

Mr. Krauss makes a strong distinction between common phrases used to describe the grieving around events such as Uvalde, Newtown, Parkland, Columbine and others.

“It’s really important to be moving forward – not moving on,” he said. “We do move forward with those children and adults – they may be gone but they are still part of our lives. There may be times when you move more slowly or not at all, but we are moving forward with their memories, with their love.”

Mr. Krauss, who every day mourns the death of his son, stillborn a year before the Sandy Hook shootings, suggests moving on implies a degree of closure that is not realistic.

“There is no closure for this event; it doesn’t close,” he said. “When you try to seal that box and put it away, and you fight it and fight it; that’s not healthy. There is no healthy in this situation.”

Mr. Krauss cautions observers to be careful not to view victims’ families as a unified group, as the news media tends to do.

“Twenty-six people were lost at Sandy Hook, and it’s easy to lump them together,” he said. “While they [the families] were united in their sadness, they were not unified in how they dealt with it and the issues around it. They are individuals with unique feelings and experiences.”

Mr. Krauss pointed to differing views on gun control among Sandy Hook families. Some were gun advocates and others favoured stronger firearm laws.

“Everyone will move down the timeline at a different pace,” he said. “You must expect that everyone is at different stages of grief and that your experience will be different from your neighbours.”

People will also have different levels of engagement as part of the process. Some will try to separate themselves from what happened. Others, like him, will try to find ways to help.

“After Sandy Hook, I was really trying to find some way to help the community,” he said.

He found it, as chairman of the Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Committee, which will open a tribute park near the site of the shootings this December.

Will it be any easier for victims’ families 10 years from now?

Mr. Krauss paused: “I wish I could say yes, but I don’t know.”

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