I can remember as if it were yesterday, walking the halls of the elementary school where I am a teacher, in the hours after I had heard of the horrors of 9/11. I attended the same school as a child. I knew that the lives of the young second graders I now taught would never be as happy and carefree as mine; some 20 years prior to that day when everything changed. It was an eerie feeling. One that I knew would be realized gradually. It was a moment I have reflected on countless times through the years.
Friday was a busy day. I never stopped for lunch, and it was 6th period before a colleague mentioned the shooting in Newton, Connecticut. At that point the details were still extremely sketchy, and while I was troubled, I was not nearly as disturbed as I would come to be over the next few hours.
As the details of what had transpired at Sandy Hook Elementary school began to unfold this weekend, I was, like any other compassionate human, horrified and appalled.
I send my child, my heart and soul, to a school a few minutes from where I work. The staff is dedicated, and caring. Honestly, I never gave her safety a second thought. But, after visualizing the entrance to her school – so close to the cafeteria, often full of children. Well, my mind when left unattended can do some awful things.
And then there is my own school. The school I attended as I child. The school I have taught at for 16 years. The children who are the siblings of others I have taught. The families I have known for years. I think about these children often. I talk about them at home as if they are part of my family. I live each day with the knowledge that I am entrusted to educate, and keep safe, someone’s “heart and soul.” This is not a responsibility taken lightly.
I know the exuberance of a room full of 6 and 7 year olds. I know the electricity in the air in the weeks before Christmas. I know the love in a teacher’s heart when she hides her students in closets, or tells them she loves them.
What I do not know, what I can not imagine or comprehend, is the heart of a man who walks into a school building and kills – 20 children and 6 adults. I can not know. Nor do I want to.
It is not my place to judge him. It is not my place to publicly state his wrongdoing. I have a strong faith, and I leave the sorting out of all that to God.
I know with confidence that those who died, as young innocent children, or their protectors, were welcomed warmly though Heaven‘s gates. They are not the ones I worry about anymore.
As a parent of an ill child, especially one that suffers with a ruthless rare disease like Cowden’s Syndrome, I do not know a day of peace. I worry from sun up to sun down about tumors, and growths, and headaches, and hot flashes, and lingering maladies that don’t suit a 9 year old. I am always at the ready because I don’t know what we will be fighting next. But I can tell you this- there is no part of me that would trade places for a second with these families.
I have the blessing, if you will, of knowing something about our enemy. We have the ability to be proactive. We can battle. We can prepare. We get tired, but we can win.
Evil ripped these lives from their families. There is nothing they could have done better. or differently There is nothing they could have fixed or prevented. They went to school. They went to work. And they died.
So, what can you take from this whole nightmare?
I will take from it that I need to do more of what I do every day. I need to hug my daughter and my husband. I need to tell them I love them every time it crosses my mind. I need to serve ice cream for dinner sometimes, because its fun and silly. I need to look less at the clock and more at them.
I need to prepare for the holidays with a different mindset. I need to organize, but not to a fault. If the cookies don’t get baked – I need to buy them. If the cabinet’s don’t get cleaned, I need to serve extra wine so no one notices. If I can’t cook it, I will order it. And come Christmas Day we will sit as a family. We will count our blessings, and remember our lost loved ones. We will understand that we are all different – and we are all the same.
The battles we face in our house are real. The journey is not always easy, but every day that we are together is a blessing. And there is no promise of tomorrow together on this earth.
Monday will be here in a few hours. I will send my little girl on the bus to school, with an extra lump in my throat. I will head the short distance to my school where I will look at everything with an eye towards awareness. I will look at my students and remember the lumps in their parents throats. I will look at my colleagues and respect that we all have the same goals in mind.
And when my phone rings, and I get the news about my spleen – bad or good. I will take a deep breath and keep on swimming. No matter how tough things can get, it could always be worse.
May God, and all the angels above surround the families and friends of all the victims. And may they all rest in peace.