The alarm on my phone went off at 4:05PM on Friday afternoon. I found my shoes and a jacket and quickly walked out the front door. I tried to keep my pace quick, but it didn’t feel quick enough – I didn’t want to be late.
I saw my neighborhood friends and said a quick hello while I passed them to check the mail. We’d received only a few pieces, mostly Christmas cards, and they fit in my jacket pocket. I again took a quick pace back to the corner and attempted to make small talk with the other neighborhood moms. A minute later we saw the bus make the corner and I could feel my pulse race. As it crept closer, I felt the tears sting my eyes and as the bus stopped I held my breath until I saw my six-year-old step out. It took her way too long to reach me as I had been waiting for her afternoon, after-school hug since earlier in the day when I read the horrifying news of what had happened in Newtown, CT, at Sandy Hook Elementary school.
We aren’t going to tell her what happened. She’s six years old – she shouldn’t know that anything this horrific can happen in this world, much less this country. She is too young to process that information without it scaring her stiff.
She’s six years old. I was pregnant with her at the same time the mothers who lost their children on Friday were pregnant with their six and seven year olds. She attends first grade at a school just as “safe” as Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT.
She brought me a poinsettia she colored that day in school. They colored poinsettias because her class represents Mexico in the “Christmas Around the World” that the classes are doing. I didn’t know poinsettias had anything to do with Mexico. She does. She knows a lot, even at the young age of six. She is curious and studious and funny and thoughtful, as I’m sure the children who lost their lives in Newtown were. And she loves school. I’m sure they did, too.
This morning I sent her to school with a very full backpack because she was bringing supplies to make gingerbread houses later this week. I was concerned about her ability to wear the heavy backpack and carry her lunch the relatively short distance from the front of the school where I drop her off to her classroom. A test run at home assured me she could handle it. Though I had managed to stay focused on my morning tasks to that point, as we approached the drop-off line and I was kissing her good-bye, I felt a sense of panic. My heart dropped to my stomach and I had to catch my breath as I opened the van door and saw the teacher standing there to help her out of the car. Surely this was exactly how Friday morning started for many parents, students, and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
I mustered a small “Thank You” for the teacher as she helped my daughter out, and managed to keep my tears mostly at bay so that I could see to drive back home. But what I wanted to do was park the car and fetch my six year old and keep her at home with me today. What I wanted to do was hug that teacher, whom I don’t know, and hug all the teachers in the drop-off line. What I wanted to do was go back to a world where students and teachers don’t lose their lives at school.
But that world is out of reach. And really has been for a very long time. And now the thing that we thought couldn’t happen, wouldn’t happen, has happened: The smallest, least defensive of our public school students has been targeted. Is this now enough for things to change?
This isn’t a Second Amendment issue. This isn’t a mental health issue. It may touch on those things, but it is much deeper than that. The act of terror that occurred on Friday, December 14, 2012, was not carried out by someone from another country. The terror was caused by a product of our own making. A child who was born and raised in the USA.
The issue is us taking a stand on what kind of a society we want to be. What can we do to make the culture of violence and fear out of reach for our children’s children? Why aren’t we doing it?