I've heard a lot of people say that they simply have no words when it comes to the Sandy Hook shooting in Connecticut. Meaning I suppose, that the horror is so overwhelming that no words can describe the depth of feeling. And I get that.
The thing is...I have a lot of words. The first words out of my mouth when I read about the tragedy on Friday morning were raw, rough, and filled with emotional rage. They weren't pretty words, they weren't comforting words. They weren't even words of grief. I was furious and frightened. I was glad that my children didn't hear those words or see their mother that way.
The rage spent (or at least at bay for the time being), then came the words of grief. And of warning. Lilian, I had planned to shield. My 5-year old Kindergartner...she I could hopefully keep this from. I didn't want to burden her with the fear of this. How lucky I am that for me and my family it can be that way. There are plenty of young children Lilian's age that saw and heard and now know things that they should not have to at this age. There are plenty of children Lilian's age that are now dead. Unlike far too many parents, this is not something I have to deal with. Thank God. But my other children...they needed to know.
Rebekah and Julianne had already heard, which was to be expected. But Brandon...an elementary age child himself, 6th grade...he had not heard the news. It was horrifically ironic. Just two days earlier he and his friend had asked me a question. "Why is The Matrix rated 'R', Mom?" When I told them that it was because of violence, Brandon downplayed it in a kind of incredulous, disgusted sort of way. "Violence, really? What's the big deal about violence?" Violence in movies and games, I explained, was dangerous. Because the more frequently you watch, the more graphic the violent images you let into your mind, the more you kill the aliens and bad guys in first person shooter games...the easier it is to become desensitized. The violence isn't shocking anymore. And it becomes all too easy to say exactly that..."What's the big deal about violence?" And then I told them about Columbine High. It happened before they were born and somehow they had never heard about the horrors that had happened there, the grief, the questions, the lessons learned. I found my computer search engine open to archived news reports of Columbine High later that evening. I was glad they had taken me seriously.
So it was with tears pouring down my face that I told Brandon of the Sandy Hook shooting. "This is why." I told him. "27 people are dead, 20 of them children. Because of violence." Obviously we don't know all the reasons why the shooter did what he did, what was going through his head. But clearly, violence IS a big deal.
Monday morning I sent my children off to school. Rebekah pulled out of the driveway in her own car heading to the high school. Julianne was picked up by her junior high carpool. I watched as Brandon and Lilian headed off to the bus stop down the street. And then waited on the cold front porch for a few minutes longer than usual as I watched the bus pull away. But I wasn't scared for their safety. And thankfully, neither were they.
An hour later I myself, was at the elementary school. Mondays are my day to volunteer for Brandon's teacher. And as I sat out in the common area stuffing folders with homework and PTA fliers...I could see children walking past me, hear teachers through open classroom doors teaching their students. I thought about Sandy Hook elementary and suddenly, though I had bounced between rage and grief all weekend long, it became all the more real to me being there in my children's elementary school. And I realized I was decidedly sick to my stomach. Very literally nauseous. I finished my task and with fresh awareness, walked through the halls to the office where I signed myself out as a volunteer, and then out the doors to my truck. I pulled out of the parking lot and onto the road and started to cry.
I don't know why this happened. It doesn't make any sense. I can't claim to understand what those parents are going through...the ones who have lost children, or the ones who haven't but are living through a different kind of horror. I can have sympathy and I can pray. And while I do so, I'll hug my own children a little bit tighter.
So, yes...for me, there ARE words. And right now I think the most important thing to use my words for, is to do this....