Like so many people out there right now, the world isn't making much sense to me right now. I opened my news page at work to read about a shooter, three people injured. Over the day I watched that story grow and morph into a nightmare-a gunman at an elementary school, twenty innocent children and six adults dead. Children, gunned down in their school. We still don't know why, although I'm sure the media will hammer us with the gory details in days to come.
My heart is broken for every person in that town. Not just for those who have lost loved ones, but for the surviving children who are forever marked by this. I resisted the urge to run out of work and go pick up my kid, and never let him go again. I probably should have stopped reading or listening to the news, but that just seemed like a betrayal, sticking my head in the sand would be an insult to the families who can't hide from this. So I listened to NPR on the drive home and cried the whole way. Looking in the cars around me I knew I wasn't the only one.
This day reminded me of another awful day, the day of the Virginia Tech shootings. That too started out with reports of a couple of injuries, then quickly spiraled out of control as a nation watched in disbelief. Just like then, I can't get my head around how a person could walk into a school and open fire on people who had never done them any harm-to people they had never even met.
I think the root of all of my distress is the reminder that no matter how hard we try to cushion our children, we fail. I can spend thousands of dollars on safety gear, strap my kid into the car, cushion the hard corners of life, but I couldn't have stopped this. We can't protect our children from life, and as a parent, that knowledge leaves me vulnerable and devastated. I can't imagine getting that call. Or the desperation a parent must feel knowing their kid was in harm's way and they couldn't protect them. I'm watching my son play and know that I would not want to live in a world without him. He probably is wondering what the deal is with the excessive hugs he's getting today.
There will be a lot of conversations in the next few months. Maybe it was a gun problem. Maybe it was the pervasiveness of violence in every aspect of our lives. Maybe it was mental illness on the part of the shooter. Maybe it was all of these things, and more. I hope that as a country we can pull together and start having real conversations-not blame throwing, not partisanship, not knee-jerk reactions-about how we allowed our society to break down so much that this sort of thing could happen. I hope we can band together and realize that nothing, no ideal, no political belief, is worth the safety of our kids. They depend on us. We have to do a better job, be better people, for them.