Friday morning, I was sitting in the gym at Pete's PDO, waiting for their Christmas play to start. My dad was next to me, checking a ding on his phone when he told me that there had been another school shooting. My heart broke, but it wasn't in the forefront of my mind. As sad as it was, I was sure that it was another bullied or disturbed student taking it out on his classmates. I put the thought of it to the back of my mind, sat back and enjoyed enjoyed watching my little goofball hop across the stage and moo as a dove. (Yeah, my son is a ham. It's one of the reasons I love him.)
I didn't find out even the main details until several hours later, after doing some Christmas shopping, enjoying lunch with my dad and having a nice chat with him. It was then that I sat down at the computer and the full force of what had happened hit me. It wasn't high schoolers or even middle schoolers but a shooting in an elementary school. The number of dead was staggering. The fact that 2/3rd of them were children hit even more.
I wanted to drive to Teddy's school and bring him home. I wanted to hold him and never let him out of my sight again. Because these children - every single one of them - were first graders. They were all the same age as my oldest child, the one that left me for 8 hours every day, who I need to trust in others to keep safe. Visions of him lying dead in his classroom refused to leave my eyes. And if I had my van, instead of lending it to my father, I would have driven there to get him, sprained foot or not. Because I needed my son. But I also knew that it was my fear instinct kicking in and that he would be safe in his school.
Over the weekend, I hugged him more than I think he's ever been hugged in a 62 hour period. I'd told him what had happened when he got home from school on Friday, so he knew why the hugs were happening and hugged me back. He's a pretty good kid when it comes to that. I half-joked with him that I would never let him go to school again because I wanted him home with me all the time. He told me that he needed to go because he wanted to learn more than I could teach him. And while that small part of me wanted to keep him here always, there was the other part of me that knew that, if he couldn't be with me, his school was the safest and best place he could be.
I've cried a lot over the last several days, and I still am. I let things affect me too deeply sometimes. After September 11, 2001, I had the hardest time walking to work, passing all the signs of the missing. For awhile, I was forbidden from picking up the paper by my boyfriend because it made me sob. I couldn't help it, though. I felt like I needed to read these stories to honor those whose lives were lost. And it's the same thing now. I don't want to look at pictures of these kids, kids at the same point in their lives as Teddy and his friends. But I feel like I have to. That looking away is dishonoring them in some way. So I read the stories and I look at the pictures and I sob and, once again, want to grab Teddy and never let him out of my sight. And I alternately wish I didn't feel so deeply and am glad that I do.
The debate about whether firearms should be banned brings thoughts of the tragedy at Stamford, CT at the beginning of Marvel's Civil War storyline. In it, there are a team of supers that are part of a reality show. While they are chasing down some supervillains, one of the villains, Nitro, lets off a huge nuclear explosion that leaves 600 dead, including 60 children (since the fight happened outside a school). It was used as a huge push to register supers, requiring them to take off their masks and either work for the government or hang up their spandex. Tony Stark, struck very deeply by the deaths, fights for registration. Captain America believes that the registration act is wrong and fights against it. And the supers of the USA break into a Civil War because of it. The similarities between this fictional story line and what happened at Sandy Hook cause me to shudder. Not just the extreme loss of life, but the push by some to make a change in what they see as the problem - guns. How deeply this seems to be affecting most of the nation. And my thoughts continue to run in the same way - regulating supers, or banishing guns, won't help eradicate the problem. Because it's not the law-abiding people that are the problem, but the ones that don't care for the laws anyway. I'd rather see a change in the way people view those with mental health problems and the ease with which people should be able to get help. But that will be as much of a fight, I'm afraid, as those wanting to get rid of guns all together.
Nothing is going to be able to bring these children, these teachers, back to us. And, sadly, nothing is going to prevent something like this from ever happening again. But that doesn't mean that I'm going to put this in my rear-view mirror and pretend it hasn't affected me. Honestly, I don't know anyone that it hasn't affected. And I wish I could do more for these families than say, "I am so sorry. You and yours are in my thoughts." I wish I could do more for the world beyond have my thoughts and opinions. I wish I could do more to balance keeping my child safe and letting him live a full life. I wish I was all powerful.
But I'm not, and I can't. All I can do is remember and honor. And hug my boys tight one more time.