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Our hearts are heavy with sadness having learned of the 26 souls lost in the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., this past Friday. Twenty young boys and girls and six teachers and administrators had their lives taken suddenly by a lone gunman, who in turn took his own life after he, for reasons yet unknown, decided to go on the rampage after killing his own mother at their home.

While the fires of debate over gun violence and gun control are being sparked, the focus at this time should be on mourning those lost. We may never know the reasoning — if it can be called that — behind the gunman’s actions, but we can, as a nation, take this tragedy as a moment to reflect on how we should cherish the moments we have with loved ones.

Far too often we can let strong differences of opinion sow seeds of anger and contempt. Whenever a tragedy of this nature occurs, the blame-game instantly begins. Particularly in the age of social media, where there is little accountability for statements “posted” online, the arguments nearly instantly escalate to the point of incivility. Often lost in the shuffle to get one’s opinion heard is respect for their fellow man — and, in this case, the lives lost in the tragedy. While healthy dialogue is important in moving forward, it has to be just that — healthy.

In the days and months that follow, let us hope lawmakers and private citizens can keep the debate over violence in our society civil. If we cannot talk in a civil manner about finding ways to avoid further tragedy, we will never come close to addressing the problem.

Again, our thoughts and prayers go out to those families who are suffering during this terrible time. Words cannot soothe the loss of innocent life, but human beings showing respect for each other in spite of their differences of opinion will not compound the tragedy. The dialogue needs to be opened. Let’s not forget why we are having the discussion in the first place.