The first tweet on Friday, Dec. 14, from Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer’s @BillHemmer account read, “47 and sunny in New York, NY today. Its mid-December. Maybe the Maya are onto something.”
But the next one from the co-anchor of FNC’s “America’s Newsroom” read: “UPDATE from the AP — The superintendent’s secretary says reports of a shooting are not confirmed.”
After that: “BREAKING: elementary school has been evacuated, situation is unclear regarding shooting. Updates on @AmericaNewsroom as we get them.”
A couple of tweets later: “The story out of Newtown, CT only gets worse. Prayers for the families. Sad day in America.”
On Sunday, Dec. 16, as the nation absorbed the full impact of the mass slaying at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which claimed the lives of 20 first-graders and six school employees (the perpetrator, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, also killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, and finally himself) Hemmer tweeted this picture taken on Saturday:
“As reporters,” says Hemmer, speaking to Zap2it on the one-week anniversary of the killings, “you learn early on to keep your emotions and reaction at arm’s length. And, on some stories, that’s impossible. I knew driving up there, out of New York City, that this would be one of those stories.
“On a story like this, if you want to report that story accurately, you have to know the detail, and the detail at Sandy Hook was devastating. It was brutal; it defied my ability to comprehend or understand, how a 6-year-old could be shot 11 times. There was a medical examiner who gave a briefing on Saturday afternoon. I think America was on its weekend at that point, and they did not hear it. It was just so inhumane and revolting.
“And that community has to deal with this forever.”
In the wake of the murders, pundits, celebrities and activists swiftly began to weigh in on social media and in op-eds and blog posts, calling for this or that, depending on their personal proclivities and political leanings.
“A lot of people talk about gun control,” says Hemmer, “rightfully so. We can have that debate. They talk about video games and violence in movies. They talk about mental health, relationships between parents and children, children and parents. I get it. I think those debates are fine to have, but I can’t make sense of any one of those five things.
“What I can make sense of is that there are two forces in this world, and one is good, and one is evil. Thankfully the good wins most of the time, but not in Sandy Hook.”
In any terrorist attack, natural disaster or heinous crime, there are those whose job it is to run toward trouble, to protect and help, if they can. But sometimes, all they can do is bear witness.
“You think about these first responders who walked into that classroom for the first time,” Hemmer says. “I mean, it makes me sick. One of the first guys who responded was a U.S. Marine who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan. He hasn’t gone public yet, so I won’t give you his name — I don’t know if he’s going to go public.
“But he was texting one of his best friends, who is a Marine also. He said, ‘This is worse than anything we’ve seen in war.'”
Monday night is Christmas Eve, and the next sunrise will bring excited cries from children around the nation and the world, as they rush to the tree to find piles of presents. But for the families of 20 children in and around Newtown, Conn. — along with all the families facing that morning with a missing member — there will be presents left undelivered.
“I don’t think it’s possible,” says Hemmer, “to celebrate this holiday season without thinking of those people, and what they’re going through, and how their Christmas will never be the same.”
Then, next week, 2013 begins, and Hemmer will be on hand as one of the anchors of Fox News’ New Year’s Eve coverage in New York’s Times Square.
Asked if he will acknowledge the Newtown tragedy during the night’s festivities, Hemmer says, “Listen, sister, it will only be appropriate to give them the honor they deserve, and I’m not quite sure how we’ll do that just yet, but we shall.
“Life moves forward. And for it not to move forward, evil wins back there in Newtown, and nobody wants that. But it will be impossible not to think about the enormous suffering that they’re going through.”