My daughter’s only two years old, happily ensconced in a daycare while her parents are at work. But today I felt the need to rush to see her, to hold her, to tell her I loved her.
Multiple shootings have become jarringly common in the U.S. but the terror at a Connecticut elementary school on Friday crossed an unthinkable threshold.
It’s unsettling to think about, but this was different than the other shootings that have almost become painfully routine.
In this shooting, some victims were hardly out of diapers. Little boys and little girls hid in closets as teachers told them fairy tales to keep them safe, while a real monster raged outside. Kids so small they were told to shut their eyes when they left the building so they didn’t have to see the carnage around them.
I was a teenager at a suburban Atlanta high school during the Columbine High massacre in Colorado that claimed 12 students and a teacher. I remember rumors soon flying that a “kill list” had emerged at my school. Students, playing on their fearful parents’ anxiety, skipped class the next day.
Now, a father for just two years, I’m feeling the same instinctual fear.
It’s sickening. It’s horrific. It’s enraging. But all those words fail. So in the aftermath we just try to cope, in all our different ways.
The accused gunman was flayed on Facebook, trashed on Twitter. Pundits blathered about the killer’s psyche. Pastors and rabbis struggled to help us understand. The president blinked back tears as he addressed the nation.
We tried to find ways to talk to kids about this tragedy. We braced for another debate over gun control. We readied for more excruciating details of what happened.
The thought emerged that maybe we shouldn’t be worrying so much about a fiscal cliff. Maybe it’s a societal cliff that should concern us.
Later in the afternoon, I couldn’t watch the TV coverage anymore. Instead, I called my wife and told her I loved her. She picked up our daughter from daycare and brought her to my office. No reason, really, other than a chance to squeeze the two of them again.
My daughter’s too young, of course, to understand why the nation grieves. So when she got to my office, I twirled her around, tickled her feet and held her tight.
Because we know all too well that there are parents whose children didn’t come home today.