Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting

(I've been told this post should come with a tissue warning, so you might want to grab a couple before you start reading.)

I debated for quite a while whether or not I was going to post anything on my blog about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, CT. Documenting things like this is not really why I keep a blog. However, it has had an extremely profound effect on me in the last couple of days. I didn't know anything about what had happened until I got in my car to drive home from work on Friday just after 4PM. We don't have TVs or radios on the floor (they're not forbidden, just no one has them that I know of), I don't check Facebook or Twitter while I'm at work (generally speaking), and there were even fewer people than usual in the office on Friday, so there wasn't much "news" from the outside coming into or out of the floor. When I did finally hear, I was in tears most of the way home, which combined with a horrible fluttery feeling in my chest that I knew would not subside until I had my own child in my sight. DH waited until I got home to pick up Luke from after school care, but that probably wasn't a bad thing, since it gave me several minutes to compose myself.

Luke was his usual oblivious self, which I didn't mind in this particular case. I don't know if he had heard anything about it on Friday or not, but if he had, he didn't mention it. We kept the television off all weekend, at least while he was awake (well, off cable; there were plenty of video games and DVDs). We did have a small moment of levity on Saturday. They had the news on at the restaurant where we ate lunch, though the sound was not on. I had positioned Luke so that he could not see the TV, because I had no idea what they might show. When they flashed a picture of the guns involved, I just shook my head and commented to my husband, "who really *needs* an assault rifle?" Luke looked at me, very puzzled. "What is assault rifle? That means it fires salt??!!" If only that were the case! We couldn't help but laugh, though the overall situation is very much not funny.

I spent most of the weekend pondering whether or not to tell him what happened. My protective instinct said no. If someone coming to his school and killing kids was something that had never occurred to him, it was not a concept I wanted to introduce. Why scare him about something he hasn't even thought of? On the other hand, I certainly didn't want him finding out at school from the other kids. Goodness knows what wild versions of the story they'll have by tomorrow (not in any malicious way, just in the way that many young children don't truly grasp what is going on, so they start making up their own details). I decided I would rather him hear it from me, though I was quite vague on the details beyond a man came to the school and shot some teachers and some students, but that it happened far away. He was largely unphased by the conversation. He didn't have any questions or seem afraid. We'll see if he has any questions or concerns when he gets home tomorrow.

I, on the other hand, am still quite shaken even after two days. That is unusual for me, especially for something that happened so far away. I actually remember the last time I cried about something like this: September 11. I've been very sad about things that have happened since then, but it was sadness for the people involved. This? It rocked me. I'm still tearing up about it two days later. The smallest things start them flowing down my cheeks. Like this:



Before Friday, I would have walked into *my* bathroom and found Luke's socks laying there on *my* bathmat and been a bit annoyed, perhaps with a touch of humor but probably not. "He has his own bathroom," I would have thought to myself on any other day, "it is part of the reason we bought this house. I don't understand why he doesn't use that one and leave his dirty socks there. Or better yet, put them in his dirty clothes hamper!" But Friday night? I both smiled and started bawling. My 8 year old son left these socks there. My son, who was home that night to leave his socks there. In Connecticut, there are 20 families where a child is not home, and never will be again; 20 homes where parents will never again see little socks haphazardly left laying about. I've had plenty of similar moments all weekend. Mere glimpses of the stash of Christmas presents for him in my closet, the toys scattered all over the den floor, his stocking hanging in the den (that one is particularly bad), the coughing coming from behind his bedroom door late at night.... all of these things have started a fresh onslaught of tears. He's here, he's home, he's safe, and I've never been more grateful.

But there is something else mingled with the tears of gratitude: a touch of fear. More than a touch, if I'm being completely honest, and that is terribly unusual for me. Call me strong or call me naive, but even when things have happened in other places in the US, I'm not generally fearful. Sad, of course; concerned, yes, perhaps wary even, but not afraid. After the daycare shooting, I was of course concerned about him, but I wasn't truly scared. We went to the movie theater to see The Dark Knight Rises the same day as the Aurora shooting. I was on guard for anything suspicious, much more alert to my surroundings than usual, but I wasn't afraid. I'm always concerned for my son, even occasionally worried for him. I know there is no promise of tomorrow. But for some reason, this is different. There's knowing that, and then there's being slapped in the face with that knowledge, especially the realization that even if I am with him, I cannot necessarily protect him. Worrying for him is one thing; suddenly being afraid for him every waking moment is quite another. The fear is lessening some each day, but it is still there, an icy patch behind my heart. Putting Luke on the bus tomorrow is going to be one of the hardest things I've ever done. But I don't want him to be afraid, so I will also try not to be. That said, I'm betting that fluttery feeling comes back and sticks around all day until we pick him up after work.

I'm not forgetting the teachers and administrators, who gave their lives trying to protect those children. They couldn't protect those kids, though they literally gave everything in the attempt. That only overlays another level of fear. My father teaches middle school. Is the day coming where he will have to make that decision? That he may have to choose between seeing his own children and grandchild again or to protect the lives of someone else's children in that moment? I have no doubt what his choice would be, and I'm proud of that, but it also scares me silly. No one should ever have to make that choice.

Y'all know I don't usually post anything even vaguely political or religious on my blog. I also hope you know that I love you all, no matter what your religious or political views are. So I hope what I am about to post does not offend any of you. My cousin Joe married a lovely woman named Amy. She and Joe have two beautiful children, both younger than Luke. She moved me to tears with her thoughts on Friday's events, which she posted on Facebook. It actually brought me great comfort on Friday evening when I really needed to hear it. I will leave you with her words:
"Today has shaken me to the core, which is a very rare thing for me. I don't think it was even the atrocity of what that man did, because in our history, worse has been done. I think I realized that I have nurtured, loved and protected my children since they were in the womb, and I will do that until my last breath. They are my joy, my light and my heart. But today it really hit home that no matter what I do and how careful I am, I cannot truly protect them. It was not mine to say when they would be born and I will not say when they die. It is very unnerving, and yet oddly comforting, to know that I am not the one in control of my children. I want nothing more than to protect and shelter them from everything bad, but at the end of the day, I know that the One who holds their lives and their forever is the only one who loves them more than me." -Amy C.
Currently feeling: sadness almost beyond words

1 comment:

Silverlotus said...

We decided not to talk to C about what happened. He is very young (although, not that much younger than some of the victims), and a bit too naive. You've touched on my biggest fear--he is out in the world on his own now, and I can't protect him all the time. I just don't know how to deal with that yet.