The last two weeks or so have been rough, on a personal, professional and world level. I’ve had words swimming in my head since then and they have been taking a very long time to gel into anything coherent so I didn’t want to put my fingers to the keyboard quite yet. But I have a quiet moment, and what I’m realizing is this — I might never have anything but a visceral response to certain things and that maybe just writing is what needs to happen.
I haven’t, as I’m sure many others have not, been able to fully process the Sandy Hook shootings. There are so many different points from which I have tried to understand, explain, and respond — it is just overwhelming and ultimately incomprehensible on many levels. So many layers from which to grasp – as a compassionate human being first and foremost, as a parent, and as a teacher…
As a human being, to figure out why anyone would shatter so much innocence with an automatic weapon is difficult to begin with. Why did this woman have so many guns in her house with a mentally ill child present? Why is there so much access to these kinds of weapons at all? Why was her son not getting the psychological help he needed, and if he wasn’t to be helped, why wasn’t he in a place where the chance of him harming himself and others was minimized? How can we prevent this from happening in the future? I can only hope that this starts a real dialogue regarding gun control and the state of mental health in our country. But with the NRA’s latest suggestion (that we should arm teachers), my hopes are not high.
I happened to find out about the shooting via text message while I was at my daughter’s preschool, waiting for her to come out of class with a few of the other moms. When I relayed the news to them, they all tapped furiously on their phones and laptops to find out what had happened and the tears started to flow. One mom expressed how thankful she was that our kids were in a school with gates, and guards, a “safe” place…but is anywhere really safe from this type of event? Sandy Hook had just had a security update…and anyone with a rifle can shoot a guard. The thought of my daughter having to endure a fraction of what those sweet children had to endure that day – whether they survived or did not – still makes me cry, still makes me sick to my stomach. The thought of what those parents are going to have to endure for the rest of their lives – it is not the natural way of things. No parent should have to outlive a child ever, but especially due to a senseless act of preventable violence. And yes, I do think in the end, that this could have been prevented.
I’ve always thought my chosen profession was a noble one, but the courage demonstrated by the staff of Sandy Hook was profound. They saved lives. And lost their own while doing so. I wondered how I would have reacted under the same circumstances. I wondered if any of my students or any of my fellow teachers’ students were on the edge of a precipice waiting to do something like this. I worried for my safety, for my coworkers’ safety, for the safety of our students. I found comfort in the knowledge that I work with and for amazing people and they are thinking of the same things as well as , doing all they can to make my school a safe place.
I think about the survivors. Those children who witnessed this and now have to live with that experience for the rest of their lives. We have no idea how these kids will be impacted. There was a shooting at my high school during the spring semester of my senior year. It happened about 50 feet behind me and instinct told me to keep walking when my knees buckled after I heard what I thought was a giant firecracker. Thankfully I wasn’t closer. I didn’t know Michael Ensley personally, but I saw him and the look on his face and I saw the blood. I heard our principal come over the loudspeaker and tell us he had passed away. I saw the FBI agents investigating outside while we were held in class. A place that was safe, was no longer. A city that was safe was no longer. It was partially because of that incident that I made the choice to go to a university outside of Los Angeles. I had a free ride to UCLA and turned it down because I needed to get out of dodge. And I didn’t even know Michael. What will these students choose to do because of what they experienced? Only time will tell.
And in the meantime, I will hug and kiss and love my daughter, be incredibly grateful for her safety and health. I will try to remember that the world she will grow up in will have good days and bad days and that she will learn to find her happiness amongst it all. I will remember the lives lost. I will try to hope for knowledge gained and hearts healed. I will hope for resilience and peace. I will try to forgive mistakes made by others. I will try to forgive myself for my own.