So now we mourn.
We mourn for nine men and women killed Wednesday during a prayer meeting at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
We mourn for their husbands and wives, their children and their families, including Charlotte’s Malcolm Graham, a former N.C. Senator whose sister was among the nine victims.
We mourn like we did with Sandy Hook, with Aurora, with too many other killings that tie us together in sorrow.
Now we ask the questions.
Who was Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old who sat among the bowed heads for an hour before deciding the time was right to kill? Why was he reportedly filled with racial hatred? And, of course: Where did his gun come from?
We debate such things regularly on these pages.
We write about the easy availability of weapons, even for the mentally unfit, and we lament the unwillingness of lawmakers here and in Washington to do simple things like toughen background checks.
We write about race and the toxic conversations we have about it, and we worry where those conversations lead people.
But we don’t know yet exactly what role either may have played in this shooting.
We don’t know that any tougher law or any better conversation on race would have stopped it from happening.
We do know that it is entirely and disturbingly possible that the killer was simply someone so consumed by hate or debilitated by mental illness that our boundaries, legal and otherwise, did not apply to his behavior.
So now we pray.
That we will do more to get help to those with mental illness. That we will do less to make it easier for them to kill. That even if these things wouldn’t have prevented this tragedy, that they might stop another.
And now we mourn. For nine people killed. For families that face a cold, concrete path ahead. For ourselves. Again.