Ever since Columbine and assorted other senseless mass killings in the '90s, police departments and other agencies have trained with a new urgency to handle the sort of thing that unfolded at Trolley Square on Monday evening. That training obviously paid off. If there is any faint ray of good news to come from this community tragedy, it is that police, with the heroic help of an off-duty officer from Ogden, Ken Hammond, were quickly able to subdue the killer before he could shoot even more people.
The victims had no chance. If someone is heavily armed and determined to calmly kill as many people in a shopping mall as possible, there isn't much unsuspecting people can do to avoid tragedy. It is the too-often recurring nightmare of modern urban life a deliberately random murderer hunting victims.
More than one person has reacted to this massacre by saying that things such as this simply don't happen in Salt Lake City. But the horrible truth we all must confront is that yes, indeed, they do. This wasn't the first time; it was simply the deadliest.
Which isn't much comfort. There is nothing of comfort in the facts of this tragedy. Comfort can come only from those who seek to give comfort; from the decent people of this community who now must pour out their hearts and their prayers to the survivors and the wounded. That's one thing the people of the Wasatch Front are good at doing and that love and concern is needed more now than ever.
The search for answers is likely to lead only to more frustrations, because there can be no satisfying answers. Why did 18-year-old Sulejman Talovic, a Bosnian refugee, decide he needed to kill people? What was it that set him off? What could bring a person to the point where he feels the need to make strangers pay the ultimate price?
And in the end, even if an answer could be found, it could never be an adequate explanation. Regardless of Talovic's motives, the people at Trolley Square were victims of terrorism every bit as much as anyone in the world's war-torn regions. And for the rest of us, life here has just gotten a lot scarier.
The only weapon against such terror is compassion. The only hope is to counter the evil with an overwhelming force of good.
And so it pays to focus on the heroes of Monday evening. That includes the well-trained officers. It also includes the many helpful shop owners and employees who quickly hurried strangers into hiding places and locked their doors. One gunman can do a lot of harm. But ultimately, he is no match for a community of concerned and caring people.