This post was not planned, since just 12 hours ago or even 6 hours ago no one could have conceived of something so unspeakable happening. But I need to talk to someone, even if I don’t have the words, so I’m just going to write off the cuff here.

I’ve already decided that I may not turn on the t.v. today, or click open any links, or turn on NPR. I’m not sure. As much as I want to see the parents and the children – to show them some symbolic solidarity – I’m not sure if my heart can handle getting so close. And for that I feel selfish.

And is it also selfish that after thinking about the children and their parents my mind raced to my own child? Because deep down, I have imagined the worst and have wondered how I would react if I ever got such a call. Because I know these things happen, especially in the United States. And because it has happened to other parents, it can happen to us too. And because my son’s school actually practices lockdown procedures. Oh yes. From the ripe old age of 5, my little boy had learned the word “lockdown.” By kindergarten he was more familiar with what to do when a gunman shows up on school grounds than with how to tie his own shoelaces or prepare his own snack.

“Me and Danny and Lily and Jana all ducked under the teacher’s table with our heads down and our hands over our heads. The other kids went under the other tables.”

How innocent and cheerful he was when he said that, as if he were telling me about a new game at recess, while I had to fight back tears at the very image of it.

And once or twice Fred and his schoolmates did in fact have a real lockdown. The most serious one was in first grade, when a student arrived at the high school down the street with a gun and took a shot inside the school bus. But the teachers were calm. As far as the children knew, they just had extended language arts that morning. No panic…only among the staff and parents who’d received a call from the principal about the lockdown.

It’s ironic, that I grew up in a much rougher and more destitute neighborhood 30 years ago and yet I did not become familiar with the words “gunman” and “lockdown” and “barricade” until I became a parent in an affluent neighborhood.

I am so angry at the gun laws in this country. I lived for almost a decade in a country where guns are illegal, and where the annual number of deaths by firearms ranged from 2 to 22 between 2006 and 2008 (compared to 12,000+ in the U.S. in 2008). I love America but for this.

Today so much is running through me – the urgent need to hold my child, anger at the senselessness, and a visceral ache for my fellow parents…because in parenthood we’re united by a common understanding of those unique emotions that can only be felt but not described. In this way I can only imagine and at the same time imagine too well what those parents are going through…and that is why it hurts so much.

8 thoughts on “Heartbreak

  1. Ceci, this has socked me in the gut. That tender age, the fear: the parents not even being able to get their children’s bodies until the authorities release them.

    It’s beyond what I can understand.

    I don’t know if I’ll be able to even stop from crying again tomorrow.

    I am so sad.

  2. I’d read Columbine earlier this year, and there is a long section in it that describes the process by which the parents had waited and looked for their children at the school after the shooting. It was just heart wrenching.

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing, Alexandra.


  3. I think I had the same response. It’s terrifying to think that this is the kind of world that we live in, a world where even the children aren’t safe. I think it’s news like this that really makes me want to become the kind of helicopter/fearful parent that I know is counterproductive to my children’s development but that feels so right.

    I was watching the vigils yesterday. There was a little girl, a six year old, who died in the shooting. Her father spoke and talked of the difference that she made in the world and of how she made an impact on all of their lives. I remember watching that and thinking that it’s having children that makes you aware just how powerful our children are. My daughters have changed me in ways that I’m sure his daughter changed him. To lose that person who was so innocent and so influential… I can’t fathom it. I really can’t. My heart goes out to all of the families.

    • I know…it makes us so helpless to know that no matter what, we can’t protect our children 100%. And even if we do or try to, it is not good for them. And yet….

  4. Cecilia, I have to be honest here. It was so hard for me to process all that happened in Newtown that I couldn’t even write about it. The heartbreak, the horror, the pain. It was just too much. And there I was, enjoying the best holiday I’ve had in years with my family, and I felt so very guilty. Like, how could we? How dare we?

    I couldn’t talk to my kids about it because of their ages, so it was easy to shield them from it, but every time I looked at them, I was both thankful and fearful for the present that we shared and for the future that holds the unknown. These parents who lost their kids didn’t know that their goodbyes that morning would be their last. And that thought paralyzes me.

    • Thanks for your honesty, Justine. It was so overwhelming and devastating, and often times we really do have to carry on. It is not disrespectful but perhaps self-preserving, especially when we have our own small children to be present for. We owe them happy memories even if other children cannot enjoy them. It is hard, to find this balance of “proper mourning” and self preservation and protection.

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