This post was not planned, since just 12 hours ago or even 6 hours ago no one could have conceived of something so unspeakable happening. But I need to talk to someone, even if I don’t have the words, so I’m just going to write off the cuff here.
I’ve already decided that I may not turn on the t.v. today, or click open any links, or turn on NPR. I’m not sure. As much as I want to see the parents and the children – to show them some symbolic solidarity – I’m not sure if my heart can handle getting so close. And for that I feel selfish.
And is it also selfish that after thinking about the children and their parents my mind raced to my own child? Because deep down, I have imagined the worst and have wondered how I would react if I ever got such a call. Because I know these things happen, especially in the United States. And because it has happened to other parents, it can happen to us too. And because my son’s school actually practices lockdown procedures. Oh yes. From the ripe old age of 5, my little boy had learned the word “lockdown.” By kindergarten he was more familiar with what to do when a gunman shows up on school grounds than with how to tie his own shoelaces or prepare his own snack.
“Me and Danny and Lily and Jana all ducked under the teacher’s table with our heads down and our hands over our heads. The other kids went under the other tables.”
How innocent and cheerful he was when he said that, as if he were telling me about a new game at recess, while I had to fight back tears at the very image of it.
And once or twice Fred and his schoolmates did in fact have a real lockdown. The most serious one was in first grade, when a student arrived at the high school down the street with a gun and took a shot inside the school bus. But the teachers were calm. As far as the children knew, they just had extended language arts that morning. No panic…only among the staff and parents who’d received a call from the principal about the lockdown.
It’s ironic, that I grew up in a much rougher and more destitute neighborhood 30 years ago and yet I did not become familiar with the words “gunman” and “lockdown” and “barricade” until I became a parent in an affluent neighborhood.
I am so angry at the gun laws in this country. I lived for almost a decade in a country where guns are illegal, and where the annual number of deaths by firearms ranged from 2 to 22 between 2006 and 2008 (compared to 12,000+ in the U.S. in 2008). I love America but for this.
Today so much is running through me – the urgent need to hold my child, anger at the senselessness, and a visceral ache for my fellow parents…because in parenthood we’re united by a common understanding of those unique emotions that can only be felt but not described. In this way I can only imagine and at the same time imagine too well what those parents are going through…and that is why it hurts so much.