You’ll have to forgive me tonight. In light of the events of this week, it just doesn’t feel right for me to sit here and pour out the silly, stupid thoughts in my head here. Not when so much was lost. So instead, I’m pouring out some serious ones about the tragedy that occurred. I’m writing this for me more than anything else, because like most of you, I’m still sorting out everything that happened.
On Friday, 20 children and 6 adults were killed. In an elementary school. Among the dead are the principal, the school psychologist, several teachers and 20 six and seven year olds. A friend of mine, Victoria, lost a nephew in the shooting, and 25 other families lost loved ones. How it is possible for the world to contain the grief that has come from this event is completely beyond my comprehension.
I know no one who was involved. I live 3000 miles away. And I’ve struggled with my thoughts, with what, if anything to write here because I don’t want to make this tragedy about me. It’s not about me. But it has impacted my life. I cannot sit here and tell you that I am the same as I was on Thursday.
I know that even if this had happened years ago, before I was a parent, that it would have wrecked my heart. Unquestionably. I don’t think any American is untouched by what happened and to anyone who says that you can’t appreciate how awful this is until you’re a parent, I’d challenge that even as a parent, most of us cannot fathom how awful this truly is. But that said, being a parent now, it just feels different than any other tragedy has. I am heartbroken. Truly, just as I would’ve been before Eli. But now I am also scared.
As my son napped peacefully on Friday, I watched news coverage of children marching from their classrooms with their eyes shut. I watched images of parents whose faces were carved with grief, who were so ravaged by the devastation that there was no possibility they could put up a strong facade. And without even thinking, I put myself in their place. I imagined my son in 5 years, a kindergartener. I imagined getting the phone call that there was a shooting at my child’s school. The phone call that my child’s life was in danger.
And what I imagined scared me to my very core. I tried to shove it out of my mind. I tried to think about other things. And I realized that how I felt imagining my child in such a situation, that crushing devastation that brought tears and heaving sobs, was barely even a fraction of what these parents are feeling. If even that.
I am scared by what I felt, by what happened on Friday. I’m scared at the realization that there is truly no safe place in this world any longer. That someone could come into an elementary school with multiple guns and kill 20 children. Children. Not enemies. Not drug dealers. Not an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend. Children. There is simply no order in this world when our children are not even safe in their elementary schools. There is no sanity in this planet when a 20 year old can walk into a school and kill a classroom full of children.
Also among those slain on Friday were teachers and the principal of the school. I didn’t hear about it until Saturday and when I did, it floored me all over again. My dad and step-mom are both elementary school principals, and my mom is a former elementary school teacher who now works at the superintendent’s office. When I saw my dad today, I just wanted to squeeze him. I wanted to tell him to be careful, to hide if it happened at his school, because he’s my dad, and I cannot bare to imagine anything happening to him. But I knew that even if I made such a blatantly selfish request that he would never honor it. That he, my step-mom and my mom all would protect their students just as those brave teachers in Newtown did, because teachers are a unique breed of people. Selfless. Loving. Everything you want your children to be around.
What I have taken the most out of this horrific tragedy is the fragility of life. It sounds so corny and contrived to say that we’re never guaranteed tomorrow, but as many times as it has been said, I’ve never really believed it. I never considered that my child’s life, my husband’s life, my parents lives, my own life, could truly be in danger, because we lead such “safe” lives. We don’t live in scary places, we don’t work with high risk populations. But this has made me realize that the fragility of life isn’t about location or association with a certain group of people. Terrible things happen every day. Safe places are only safe until they are not.
So corny though it may be, I am counting my blessings. I am being grateful for what I have, right now, in this moment, because I am more aware now than ever, that I may not have those things indefinitely. I am so blessed to have them and if I do not celebrate them now, I will someday regret that.
My thoughts and prayers go out to all those whose lives have been forever changed by this. Who have lost loved ones. Whose children have lost the innocence that they should’ve been able to hang on to for many more years than they have been allowed. I hope that you are all able to find comfort and order in this world again, if not now, then some day down the road. That you are able to someday breathe in and out and not feel the weight of this on your hearts, that your children may again be carefree.
And if that day does not come soon, as I imagine it won’t, that you have people to lean on. To help you remember to breathe. To help you mend your wounds and heal your hearts. To hold your hand. To wipe your tears. To help you laugh again. That you may know that you are not alone and that a nation, if not a world, grieves with you.
To those lost, may you rest in peace. And may your families someday find peace of their own.
If you want to help Victoria’s family, a trust has been set up here that you can donate to.