Just For This Moment in Time

canstockphoto11249609My emotions are raw now and I fear even writing about this will somehow trivialize a tragedy that ended almost 30 lives at an elementary school in Connecticut today. The facts have not been clearly established and the story is still evolving. But it doesn’t change the irreversible fact of senseless death.

I picked my daughter up from school, putting on my game face, even though it was puffy and red from crying. The parents and teachers barely make eye contact, for fear that we’ll all lose our game faces and openly weep. There are two planes of emotion intersecting – grief stricken and fearful adults going through the motions and happy, unaware children bouncing down the hallways.

The school sent out an email trying to reassure us. They were reviewing their security measures. They listed tips from the National Association of School Psychologists on how to talk to our children about the story, before they heard it from another source.

I talk to my daughter briefly, letting her know that something bad has happened to some kids and that if she hears about it and has any questions or concerns, she can talk to us. What would be the point of telling her more? It doesn’t matter that she has reached the “age of reason” when something has happened for no reason that we can explain.

When I tuck her into bed and kiss her goodnight, I turn away so that she doesn’t see the tears welling up. I am the mother who has no child to tuck in tonight. I am the husband whose wife taught at the school and died in a hallway. I am the law enforcement officer who first came upon a scene only found in nightmares. I am the President who has to present a strong face to the country, all the while wishing to go home to his own children. I am the father who didn’t get to say good-bye to his child before he left for work. I am the parent of a child who survived while his classmates died beside him. I am a child who does not understand why someone would want to hurt kids.

We are all of these people and all of these people are us.

In the coming days, the events of today will be dissected and massaged and politicized. The sharp edges will dull and soon, I’ll drop my daughter off at school with a quick “I love you” and drive away. I’ll stop wondering if anything will happen to her. I’ll stop reviewing school security or running through scenarios in my head. But that day will not be soon.

There is nothing I can say here that will help those families whose lives have been ripped out from under them. They have my sympathies, but that will not help them in those moments when the emptiness is a canyon. My mind allows me to imagine a mere second in time without my child and I wrench it back into the present. It is unimaginable.

People can go on about statistics, the 2nd amendment, the mental health system – we’re all desperate for a reason, a way to distance ourselves. Today, I saw a school very much like my daughter’s and children who looked just like the children I see everyday in the hallway. I saw moms and dads with whom I wait to pick up our children. I saw teachers who my child loves and talks about.

I see that we are not different, not special, not protected. So just for this moment, just for this day, I grieve for the children and the adults and the surviving families as if they are my community, my school, my child. Soon life will beckon that we move on, that we rationalize, that we point fingers, but just for this moment in time, we are them and they are us.

12 Comments on “Just For This Moment in Time

  1. Michelle, you pegged it, I think. Not different, not special, not protected; but you grieve for a moment and then move on.

    Saw an article on some other topic a couple of days ago, but what stuck with me was a statement to the effect: “When you have had a traumatic experience, you need to get to a point where you can acknowledge it, set it aside, and move on.” That will take time, but what other option is there, really?

    As for what to tell kids – well, the truth, as far as we understand it. As to “why?” – because some people in this world are just crazy. Yes, non-politically-correct, harsh, but true: crazy and dangerous, and they let their motives drive them to horrid actions. We don’t do kids any favors by hiding the world’s dangers from them. As to “can it happen to me?” Very unlikely but – well – yes, it could. As my Dad would say at this point, though, we should not worry about these things; he believed in destiny. Some things just happen. You can’t avoid everything, not even by locking yourself up in your hermitage.

    But something else my Dad believed in was talking openly about what you can or should do in an emergency. Kids (or anyone) should not feel powerless, lost, or frozen in the face of an emergency. Helplessness only serves to heighten the trauma. Doing something – even if it’s only calling 911 to provide information, making a conscious, controlled decision to hide and be quiet, or having the presence of mind to lock the classroom door – is the first step to owning the experience, rather than letting it own us.

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  2. It’s so true that we are every one. “We are all of these people and all of these people are us.” We share in the grief and horror because we can try to imagine what it may feel like. Thank you for writing about how we are the same, because so often we want to be sure that we are different.

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  3. Very sad situation that you have described very frankly. As time goes on, there are more sick people out there that have been made ambulatory with medication. Ticking time bombs, ready to explode for whatever the reason. As we have seen with latest sick events, these supposedly “insane” are sane and intelligent enough to kill themselves at the very end.
    Thank you for your empathy is these times of pure horror.

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  4. Nothing more to say. You’ve said it all. So much more eloquently than anything I’m reading in the newspapers.

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