Like many parents who watched what unfolded at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday morning, I didn’t want to believe what I was hearing. I was covering the news for The Stir, so I didn’t have the luxury of looking away. Instead, I watched that death toll rise and found myself nearly unable to breathe as I learned how many of the victims were children. I kept seeing that photo of the children holding each other as they were evacuated -clinging to each other, some crying. I thought of the parents and what a nightmare they must all be in. And I thought of my own son, just a couple years older.
When he stepped off the bus that afternoon I grabbed my son and held him tight. I hugged him for all the parents who didn’t get to hug their kids after school that day. It will never be enough, though. I try to imagine their pain and see only emptiness, the void in their hearts unfathomable. There is nothing I can do to fill it.
I was heartbroken. But I was also angry.
I think one of the biggest impulses we have as parents is to “make it better.” Do we ever stop wanting to make it better for our kids when they’re sick or cold or scared? As Katie Couric interviewed the family of Daniel Barden, one of the young victims, I was struck by what Daniel’s siblings said. His 10-year-old sister Natalie had wanted to ask President Obama when he was going to pass legislation making it illegal for anyone other than police or military personnel to own guns- and to limit their use to ranges. And Daniel’s brother, 12-year-old James, wants to know what President Obama is going to do to make sure this never happens again.
As our compassion is awakened we want to do something to make this a safer world for our children, for everyone’s children.
We parents know this is much more complicated that any one issue. But a key part of this issue is guns. How we manage mental illness is another, as we’ve learned from Liza Long’s brave essay, “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother.” For those of us who say goodbye to our babies every morning as they leave for school, these issues are personal and the stakes could not be higher. As our compassion is awakened we want to do something to make this a safer world for our children, for everyone’s children.
It’s not just up to President Obama, it’s up to all of us to demand meaningful action. I am no longer willing to pay for our complacency and culture with the blood of children. It’s too high a price.
Every time our world is shattered and the “unimaginable” happens, we adjust to a new reality. Some people are calling the shooting at Newtown a “senseless” act. I say we’d better make sense of it, or these killings will just keep happening. Some people blame it on “evil.” But if we keep blaming these atrocities on abstractions like “evil” these killings will keep happening. We must work together to make this a safer world for everyone.
It’s at times like this that I think of novelist Arundhati Roy’s words: “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
What do you think will prevent this from happening again?