Today our President, Barack Obama, uttered those words, and anyone who was listening, anyone who saw the leader of our country struck silent for a moment, tearful, was touched. The news, that 27 people—20 of them very young children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, waiting for the start of their holiday break, were murdered by a lone gunman, was just too unbearable to process. Collectively, we are indeed grieving after an utterly horrible event.
When I heard the news this morning, I was getting ready to run errands for a Hanukkah party that I was having tonight. I was going to pick up my son’s gift; I was meeting a friend for lunch; I had things to do. I was putting together another post for today, but saw a social media update, and turned on the news instead. As I watched the story unfold my heart fractured and I could not move. I cried openly, and was unable to head out and move into my day. I could not imagine going out to do such trivial things, when the world had just ended for so many other parents, in a small town not far from the place where I was raised.
As a parent, it was impossible not to think immediately of my own children… at school. I know that my two oldest kids are out in the world each day, out of my care and watchful eye. I have come to rely on the belief that they are safe, even though I often spend many consecutive days not really knowing where they are, or what they are doing. They are not babies anymore, and as we all must do at some point, I’ve had to let them go out in the world to live their own lives, and trust that all is well. I’ve learned to just breath, until they call, email or come home again. I sleep each night, not always sure where they are, or what they are doing, but I sleep regardless. That is what we do when our babies grow up and leave our homes.
My youngest, however, was at his school today. He left this morning, excited to celebrate in one of his classes. He left excited to see his winter break begin. All of those little children, left their homes this morning, just as my boy did. Many of their parents probably felt like I did. They had errands to run and things to do, before their children came home. Watching the news as it was breaking, I sat here in my home, and had to truly fight a powerful urge to drive over and see my son’s face. I wanted to rush into his school, and hold him and just know that he was ok. Of course, my teenage boy would never forgive me if I’d done that. So I breathed, and tried to remind myself that the news was elsewhere; my child was ok.
I was not alone today. Every single person I saw once I went out, was experiencing a similar sense of shock and deep sadness. It was in each shop I entered, on each and every face. It’s not just parents who felt this, though on some level it shook parents differently, perhaps because we all seek to find meaning, reason, in such tragedies. We seek to distance ourselves: that could not happen to me, because we don’t go here or there, or do this or that… but those of us who have children, and send them to school each day, could not help but watch this news and feel a deep sense of dread.
I am not a worry wart; I am not that parent who gets anxious about my children easily. I don’t generally hear terrible things on the news and immediately apply them to my own life, or my own kids. This story however had that effect. I thought of my own children instantly. I wanted to see their faces and hold them. I wanted to be reassured and comforted. Sadly, there is no comfort to be had in this. Twenty small children are dead as well as six teachers and adults who work with children, and there is no comfort to be had.
A note: While the issue of gun control is a hot topic, and very complex, there was an equally compelling story out of China today. On the very same day, another very disturbed man walked into an elementary school in central China. He violently attacked more than 24 children, before he was stopped by staff. All 24 children were injured. Injured, not killed. The man had a knife; not a gun.
Share your thoughts. What did you experience when you heard this terrible news. Can you breath?