Should You Listen to the Newtown 911 Calls?

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Residents grieve following a shooting December 14, 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. At least 26 people, including 20 young children, were killed when a gunman assaulted the school and another body was found dead at a second linked crime scene, police said.  Police spokesman Lieutenant Paul Vance told reporters that the attacker killed 20 children and six adults, including someone that he lived with, at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.  The gunman also died at the scene, and a 28th body was found elsewhere.
Photo: DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

In short: probably not. The emergency calls from Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012, released today by a judge's order, are every bit as upsetting as one might imagine. "I have to go lock the door," says a teacher. Gunshots can be heard in the background. But as a public still grieving, they teach us nothing.

A state attorney argued that releasing the tapes would make public "information relative to child abuse," while the parents of some victims begged for them to be kept private. Superior Court Judge Eliot Prescott called the recordings "harrowing and disturbing," but found no legal reasoning to stop their release to the Associated Press, which he said will "allow the public to consider and weigh what improvements, if any, should be made to law enforcement's response to such incidents."

"We all understand why some people have strong feelings about the release of these tapes. This was a horrible crime," said AP executive editor Kathleen Carroll. "It's important to remember, though, that 911 tapes, like other police documents, are public records. Reviewing them is a part of normal newsgathering in a responsible news organization."

From a media standpoint, that may be true, yet for those who continue to grapple with the tragedy on a human level, listening to the calls is little more than masochism. Even for the morbidly curious, there's a distinct lack of new information to be gleaned from the chaos, especially following the extremely detailed — and disturbing — official report on the matter, which provides a timeline of events and the most complete portrait yet of the ultimately unknowable Adam Lanza. Hearing the terror in real time, which you can do here, provides no additional answers, just more hurt.