Later that year, a few Seniors were suspended for posting a hate letter naming a multitude of people - some who I knew, some I was friends with - that were on their hit list. There was a bomb threat to the school that was confirmed as false, but all students and parents were informed that school was optional until it was all completely sorted out. I wasn't on the list. I stayed home anyway. This time, I was more affected. It turned out to be nothing serious, but maybe that was because it was caught in time, I don't know. Most likely it was simply a copy-cat plea for attention, but it made me realize that no one was immune to tragedy. It happened in Columbine and it could happen here. Those students that died were my age or younger. It could have been me. It could have been my friends.
My own mortality was called into question. Life could be cut short. Lives could be lost. My own, even. It was scary.
But time marched on. The uncertainty and anxiety faded. Life continued. I was unscathed.
When I first heard about Sandy Hook elementary school, I was in my family room. I never really watch the news (it depresses me) and prefer to read it instead, but for whatever reason, the TV was set to CNN when I turned it on. I was stunned. Numb. Mortified. I felt a little like I did when I first heard about Columbine - it was unreal. Nothing so horrifying could happen in real life - especially to such a small sleepy town, probably a lot like my own.
I cried as I watched for about a 1/2 an hour as they showed pictures of the scene... the police personnel milling about, the lines and lines of cars around the school, and the parents - oh! The parents! The joyful faces of those squeezing their children tightly... The anguish of those leaving the fire station with hands and hearts empty... It was more than I could bear and I turned it off.
I tired hard not to think about it throughout the day, but later that night as we lay in bed, my husband and I talked quietly about it. He relayed the latest statistics he'd just read on CNN.com and informed me the fatalities were mostly first graders.
In my mind, I immediately saw those small children, huddling in fear... their 6 year old minds unprepared for something so inhumane and awful... their teacher trying her hardest to protect them and keep them calm. In my mind, I heard whispered prayers from those with faith to pray... quiet tears from those trying so hard to be brave. In my mind, a face turned toward me, and it was my son's.
In bed that night, I let loose with a torrent of sobs, as I'm sure so many of us did. This time, though no closer to me in proximity than any other shooting I'd heard of, it hit me much closer to home. Those children - innocent and unsuspecting. It wasn't my own mortality I faced this time. It was my children's.
In high school, I was anxious. Worried. Self-absorbed. Like most teenagers. Columbine and it's copy-cats showed me that the lives of people my own age could be snuffed out by violence.
Now I am a mother. Sandy Hook showed me that my children could be snatched away in a heartbeat by violence.
I'm not a psychologist or a politician or a law enforcement agent, and so refuse to make this post about the controversy surrounding mental health care, gun control and the like. Sure, I have opinions. But that's not the point.
I suppose anything else I could say would sound trite or cliche. But I feel deeply for those parents who sent their kids to school that morning in a small community they thought was safe. A community very similar to the one I live in. For those parents who picked up their phones to mind-blowingly horrifying news and tried with all their might to keep clear heads as they drove to the school. I grieve with those parents who left with less than they came - holes in their hearts and no one to buckle into the backseat. With those parents who stared at empty beds instead of giving goodnight kisses.
And though I am trying harder to appreciate every single moment with my own small souls - while I wipe away milk mustaches, calm tears, kiss bruises, play hide and seek, force vegetables into mouths, and tuck blankets with a grateful heart - I sorrow with those parents. And with their surviving children and families. I can't pretend to know what they are going through. I would never try to minimize their pain by saying I understand. But in a very small, yet REAL, way I can imagine it.
Because all I can think of is that it could be my child.
I am so sorry. So sorry.