No words I could ever write could do justice in paying tribute to the lives lost on December 14, 2012 in Newtown, CT. Rest in Peace: Nancy, Charlotte, Daniel, Rachel, Olivia, Josephine, Ana, Dylan, Dawn, Madeleine, Catherine, Chase, Jesse, James, Grace, Anne, Emilie, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Avielle, Lauren, Mary, Victoria, Benjamin, Allison
We were running late that day and I'll never forget. I trusted him to grab his hat and jacket and his backpack hung over the side of the kitchen chair. I reached for the keys, my 2 year old and the kitchen door all at once. A clock was ticking in my head. I just wanted to get to the bus stop on time. And we did. What a relief to see all the scarf-wrapped parents and their bundled up kids who blew cold smoke from their mouths at each other, never keeping still, while piping in and out of the chatter that rivaled the songs of the early morning birds above them. And just as I saw the bus approaching, I called out to him to make sure his jacket was zipped up and to grab his back pack, it was time to go. But he forgot his book bag. He looked at me just as disappointed as I was. We had worked so hard on his homework the night before, I told him. And I reminded him before we left out the door. He needed to pay better attention to Mommy, I scolded him. I led him to the line filled with his friends and classmates and patted him on the head. The day almost started without a hitch, but at least we weren't late. I told him to have a good day and always listen to his teacher. The same words I've recited every day since the beginning of every school year. I told him I loved him. I got back in my car and headed back home. My first grader was safe and exactly where he was supposed to be. Then a few short hours later, I learned that 20 children were dead. Shot to death. Murdered in their classrooms in an elementary school in Newtown. My neighbour called and asked if I had heard, but I was busy doing housework and didn't even have the television on. She raced over and we sat and watched and we shook our heads. The details were sketchy at first and later we found that the media had reported a few things that were inaccurate, like the shooter's name, his age, they even said his mother was a teacher at the school. The one thing they had right was that 20 children, 20 first graders were dead. All I wanted to do was run to my first grader, pick him up from school. Maybe he wasn't safe, maybe he wasn't right where he was supposed to be.
But if a 6 or 7 year old child isn't supposed to be in school on a Friday morning in December, where is he supposed to be? The hours passed and soon so did the days. There were now pictures of these babies, gorgeous and happy, we could see them all and visualize what they were like in life, all the while knowing the horror of how they died. There were the brave stories of their teachers and principal who died trying to protect them. Our hearts as a nation are broken. Those classrooms were my son's classroom. Those teachers were my son's teacher. When I look at those faces, I see my own 6 year old. I see his school class picture and they all look the same. They are 6 and 7 years old. There are no hard lines of a wrinkled, tired face. No signs of struggle or knowledge of the world as a dangerous place. Just toothless smiles and fantastic dreams. Innocence to the nth power. Angels on earth.
Of course gun laws need to be passed, and any pro-gun, NRA card carrying extremist that can't admit that isn't worth debating with. Of course we need to look into mental health and the way the system is failing some of our sickest individuals. Even President Obama said when describing the worst day in his presidency, that there isn't any one answer. But this land is a place where mass shootings occur. A place where the mall, the movie theater, the buildings where we work, and the institutions where our most precious little lives are being groomed and graded, our schools, are simply not safe. Any gunman on a suicidal mission, with a grudge or a vendetta, a history of mental illness or an obsession with guns and violence can just start shooting and we are left to ask why while we deal with the carnage after he kills dozens of people and then himself. He leaves us with no answers, attending funerals, and losing grasp of the most important issues so we can argue about the ones that will get us nowhere.
Put a metal detector at the door of every school, I say. Pat down every visitor. Whoever doesn't like it, don't try to go to any American school. While some people in this country fight for their 2nd amendment rights to carry a weapon, you're missing the point. No one wants to take away your guns, we just want evil people with guns to stop taking away our children.