I don’t know what to do. I can’t shake the Sandy Hook shooting. This may sound totally stupid or insensitive, but this is the first tragedy that has brought home the reality to me that no place is safe. This could happen to any of us, tomorrow. The human brain has amazing coping ability – denial, denial, denial. Somehow the mass shooting at the movie theater in Colorado “could never happen to me”. I don’t like Batman. I don’t go to midnight movies. I know that doesn’t make any sense but sometimes people tell themselves things in order to stay in our routines. It’s the same phenomenon that keeps us driving cars and riding escalators. Sure, there’s the off chance something could go awry and our fingers could get gnawed off, but that happens to other people.
Tomorrow night I’m taking one of my daughters to see the Rockettes. I don’t usually tell the Internet where I’m going to be ahead of time, but I’m breaking protocol here because I’m terrified. Crowded, public spaces are more threatening now than just the loom of a pickpocket. When I bought the tickets for the show several months ago, I didn’t give it a second thought. She’d be four by then and seeing a Christmas musical with her cousin would make the season bright. I’ve waited a long time through diapers and teething and potty training to finally have a little girl to take to the theater so we’re pretty excited. And yet I can’t sleep tonight. In fact, I haven’t gone more than a few hours without crying since Friday.
That sleepy little commuter town with the focus on good schools looks a lot like my community. The first picture that popped up when I saw the victims was of a little girl who looks like my daughter. I wish I could say I can’t imagine the enormity of the loss her parents feel, but I can. I can’t stop imagining it. I know those parents loved their kids more than life itself. To be honest, I don’t know if I’d have the strength to keep living if a massacre took my child. I suppose they have to. They have spouses and possibly other children to consider and what good is two dead people in a family, but the enormity of the grief would be so heavy I’d barely be of any use again. I’m weak. There are parents like Mary Tyler Mom who lose a child and go on to raise half a million dollars in research. And there are people like me, who would cry until they ran out of salt and then just disintegrate into the ground. How can you ever know happiness again after losing a child?
I wish I could offer anyone who reads this some kind of comfort. Are you guys feeling this tragedy too? Like it’s a big, purple light that changed the color of everything we see now? Life will never be the same again. Maybe parents with older kids felt this way after Columbine or Virginia Tech. For some reason, the dismissive part of my brain put myself in the students’ shoes. I’m invincible. I can run. I can duck. And if all else failed, well, I could die and that would be the end of it. The fury, no matter how terrible, would be over when the shooting ended. But this time, the massacre victims were closer to my kids’ ages and I wouldn’t be there to hatch escape plans. Now I’m a parent and the character I relate to in the story isn’t the kids screaming in the hallways, it’s the parents getting that phone call to turn on the news. The terror for me would only be beginning right now. My deepest sympathies are with the families.
I’m still taking Bee to school in the morning and the theater tomorrow night. We have to be courageous and live our lives. We have to go on as though we expect to live another day. Until last Friday, that was an easy assumption to make. Now it’s a choice. We have to choose to believe we’re going to be okay.
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