When my children came home from school yesterday I hugged them so hard that they complained, my hug was too fierce, too long, too hard. I think a lot of parents did this. We sat down, and I asked them if they had heard anything about new during their school day. My fifth grader had, but my youngest daughter was unaware of the tragic events that took place at the Sandy Hook elementary school. I knew that there was a chance they would hear more, or see a news segment on the television that I am refusing to turn on, so I explained to them briefly that there was a school shooting and a lot of children died. I asked them if they had any questions, and told them that I was sad. That we needed to keep the people in Newtown in our thoughts and prayers.
In the meantime, I was sending my husband text message after text message, telling him we needed to talk about this, that we needed to homeschool our kids, that we needed to go far away from everyone and live in some underground safety bunker where nothing like this could ever harm our family or our children. When something like this happens, we can think only of the parents and the children, those poor, poor parents, those babies who died. But when something like this happens, we relate it back to us, our children, our families, our schools and communities. How can we be safe? How can we send our kids to school on Monday knowing that these things can happen in the world?
I’m sure these parents who hugged and kissed their kids goodbye yesterday morning, who packed lunches and buttoned coats and checked backpacks had no idea that their day would end this way. They started their days like so many of us did, making plans for the weekend, talking about the upcoming holiday. From Today:
Weiss recalled a mother’s excitement earlier in the day that her daughter was going to be an angel in the church’s Christmas pageant, another parent looking forward to her daughter making her first Holy Communion, and another’s joy over her 5-year-old scoring her first soccer goal. There also was a brutal reminder of the loss from the simple buzzing of a cell phone.
“I was sitting there and one of the alarms went off on (a mother’s) phone, and she was supposed to pick up her child to take him to Cub Scouts and realized that was never going to happen again,’’ Weiss said. “The emotions of yesterday were just absolutely overwhelming, and I don’t know if the reality has really settled in yet.’’
My children are alive today, they are safe, and fed, and warm, and happy. My relating the tragedy of people of Newton, Connecticut to my own family, my own children, is selfish and wrong. But I think it’s a normal response that a lot of parents have. I need moms, I need parents right now, I need someone to tell me what to do, how I can make my heart stop hurting like this, how I can put my own children on the bus Monday morning. I need to do something for the parents who can scarcely breathe today, who have lost their loved ones, who feel the world is ending. I need to mother everyone, to say something that will make someone feel better, but I can’t even pick my own heart off the floor. Many of us aren’t in Newton, but we all are. Because this is just not about that community, those parents, it’s about all of us.
I know so many people in the world are hurting today, and are confused and scared and don’t know how to process their emotions about this. I am just one of them. I know we can talk about this, we can hold each other, we can try and think of ways to make our children and our communities safer. And I know on Monday morning I will send my own kids off to school. But I also know I will be frightened to do so. Rationally I realize that our world is usually safe, that things like this are rare and awful tragedies like this don’t happen that often, but even one time is one too many. I can’t compare what I’m feeling to the people in Newton. I can’t compare my own sadness and fear to the people who are forever changed by this. All I can do is try and deal with my own little corner of the world, and keep those poor families in my heart.