EDITOR’S NOTE:It’s so hard to think about the tragedy in Newtown, let alone write about it in a public place. But you’ve helped us build a community here at Rocket City Mom, and our writers felt compelled to share with you our thoughts. We are each other’s villages, and are responsible for not only our own families, but the culture of well-being and safety of families all around us. We would love to hear your thoughts as well, and hope you leave them in the comments.
I sat down to write down my thoughts for Rocket City Mom, but the words did not come.
So I stepped away from my computer, and returned later in the afternoon to write. But the words never came. My heart is broken for the people of Newtown.
Instead, I would like to tell you about the #26Acts Twitter movement. People across America are performing 26 acts of kindness in honor of the victims of the tragedy at Sandy Hook. It might be something as small as picking up trash in a parking lot, to paying for a stranger’s layaway to sending a card to a soldier. It is a way to honor those brave souls who lost their lives on Friday, and to bring hope to a grieving nation.
My own words might fail me today, but these have always provided me solace in times of need: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
For someone whose currency has always been words, it’s a struggle to find myself grasping for them. I admit I am shamelessly uninformed when it comes to Friday’s tragedy. After about 60 seconds of news coverage, I had to walk away. In a case like this there are no words, no photographs, no interviews…nothing that can ever make us understand or ease the pain of this senseless loss of life. Having worked in news, both tv and print, I understand the pressure to be first, to know the most, to nail the shot, to get the interview. With the changes and challenges facing all media outlets, I feel like doing right is losing way to doing most, to doing more. Sometimes more is just more and that doesn’t make it good or right.
In lieu of the media madness, my family and I went to see A Christmas Carol, walked through the Tinsel Trail, watched silly Christmas movies starring Tori Spelling and I threatened to throw out the Christmas tree since no one else cares about Christmas as much as I do. (An empty threat I make at least once a year.)
My suggestion? Now more than ever celebrate the season. Look for the magic in each and every moment. Be kind to strangers and friends alike. Send prayers and thoughts to those whom we may not know but for whom our hearts ache. Be merry. Be bright. Be so bright as to banish the monsters from the closet and the ghouls from under the bed because for a sad few, evil will always find a way. It’s up to the rest of us, the majority of us, to show them that good will as well.
The day after the Newtown shootings, a former student of my husband’s passed away from a point blank gunshot wound to the head he sustained on December 4th. There is no known motive. That same day was also set to be his graduation from UAH. His brother received his diploma for him. Needless to say, we have been touched too often as of late by violence among youth.
I feel the conversation that lies before us needs to be approached with level heads and empathy for the other side, which is hard to do in such an emotionally-fueled situation, and understandably. There is a need for gun regulation, but not all gun owners have blood on their hands here. There is a need to make mental health services more readily available, but not everyone on any mental stabilizing drugs is immediately a mass murder in a ticking time bomb. We need to find a way to silence the noise in the room, so we can hear what the real issue is.
Which feels like an incredibly cheap, pass-the-buck answer… because it is. I have no answers; the problem feels too insurmountable.
We’ll work on loving each other more here at our house, and hope everyone else does the same.
This isn’t a political post.
While I was waiting outside to pick up my kids after school today, I was… overcome with a range of emotions that I haven’t really felt since my babies were born. The only day like it for me was perhaps the day that our pediatrician suggested that we have the boy tested for autism.
I was ecstatic that my children were safe. I was enraged that there are dads and moms in this nation who will never know that feeling again.
What happened today in Newtown, Connecticut should not happen. No one should have to face that.
But it does, and we do. Read On…
In the Bible, there is a passage that talks about “mourning with those that mourn”, and really I think that’s what we’re all feeling. I didn’t personally know any of the victims, so for a while I thought it was overdramatic that I felt so grief stricken by an incident that happened thousands of miles away. However, I experienced what I’m sure a lot of you did: that moment of chilling horror when you thought “Oh my gosh, what if that was my kid?”
Since the news broke on Friday I had experienced that feeling over and over, but when I saw the list of names and ages and realized that they were the same age as my son… Well, let’s say I had a pretty sleepless night. I’ve had to consciously avoid news sites that post pictures of the victims because they look like my son and his classmates. No wonder we feel shaken and like we’re in mourning. After all that exposure, what we feel goes past sympathy. What we are feeling is empathy. There is no way we can know exactly what those families are going through. But as we see those beautiful little faces and know that a family is missing them, their parents on TV pouring out their broken hearts, the parental heart inside all of us responds and breaks for their grief.
However, the most painful thing was knowing that I had to gently take away some of my son’s innocence. My husband and I discussed it back and forth: should we tell him what happened? What happens if he finds out on the playground? We’ve already had some semi concerning issues develop from classmates talking about “how babies are made” on the playground. I wanted him to hear about it from us, in a place he felt safe, and where we could hug him and talk it out with him. So, we sat down and told him that in a school very very far away, a bad guy hurt some kids. The bad guy was not coming after him. He might hear about it from some of his friends at school. He might get extra hugs from family members when they see him, just because they love him so much. Some of the grownups he knows might seem a little sad for the next few days. But most of all we wanted him to know that we, along with his teacher, and everyone at his school would always do everything we possibly could to keep him safe. He seemed a little concerned at the time, asked a few questions, and then went on as normal.
Following his example, I’m carrying on as normal too. But I’ll be wearing green and white this week. And in my heart, I’ll be mourning with those who mourn in Connecticut.
A giant spoon entered our kettle on Friday.
I spent the day with Haze, reading updated reports on my phone as information about a shooting, in a town I never heard of, splashed the top of every “feed” I subscribe to; making their various “pings” and “dings” rhythmically in my pocket.
I glanced at social media outlets where I met suppositions and ‘so sad’s’. In a few hours friend’s status updates of questioning and anguish turned to anger. Anger that spun in a million directions; back out at one another, laws, and the shooter.
I get that; I understand updates of grief and love, the ones about gun control, anger, irrational statements, and overly rational statements. Yes, my mind was twisted as I went about my day with Haze, but quick glances at words gathered in sentences to report the situation didn’t stop my daily flow. Read On…
I doubt there is anything profound in where I am or what I have to say. I feel shaken every time I look at my children. I feel almost as if we are drifting through a bad dream. I feel sick every time I hear Christmas music and children singing, because it strikes in my heart that those Newton children will not be here for Christmas with their families… and I just keep thinking about how those parents must feel, and I am absolutely broken in a way I have never been before.
I profess, I know this tragedy is not about ME. However, I had a panic attack when I left my children at school yesterday. Their regular officer was in car line both before and after school. I cried on and off all day, sobbing at times, feeling as if I should have just kept the children at home. How sad that we live in a country where we now feel scared to go out, to let our children go to… school.
I think what got us here is lack of action. I think the bottom line here is that we’ve become a society of permissive parenting in the most extreme sense. We don’t want to limit anyone to ensure we don’t limit ourselves. I fear America is seeing the consequences of this mentality. Guns kill. It is as simple as that. I won’t say I do not support people’s right to own guns. I do. However, I think there is a profound misunderstanding about our constitution and about preserving liberty. And, while I own that my views are certainly not popular in our ‘neck of the woods’, I think we have to consider “permissive parenting” used as loosely as it can be used, as a fault. I really speak less to the Lanza family, knowing nothing of them, and more to our gun culture. We consider the requirements of being in a society and being able to live our lives FREELY WITHOUT infringing on or harming others. Out of that, our number one goal has to be ensuring that all people, and most importantly, children, are not hurt. We have to have an open dialogue about how that happens and we have to communicate those ideas to our representatives. We are the only ones who can change things. As long as we avoid discussion, we remain in danger. Our children remain in danger.
As for coping, I am not sure how we do it. I am very much grieving at this time. I cannot speak to how we talk to our children, because, frankly, I have merely shielded my two kindergarteners and check daily with non-leading questions to see if they have heard anything. I watched television Friday, and beyond that, I simply stay away from all media on the topic. I cannot absorb any more information, and I simply hope my children absorb none. Over the coming months, as I send them to school and my husband off to work (at a school), daily, I have to try to resolve, in my own mind, how I can act in such a way to promote a change in our culture, and how, hopefully, I can influence others to do the same. My fear is that we will simply grieve and then become complacent, again, and that inaction will lead to a society stale and stagnant with permissiveness and, frankly, entitlement. I am apologetic not for my thoughts or words, but for their undeveloped nature. I may never be able to articulate what this has done to me. I am not sure what we do or how we do it. I just know we must do something.
Jennifer is the creator and co-editor of Rocket City Mom. She is also a compulsive writer, avid reader, occasional singer and former communications wizard turned toddler wrangler. You can often spot her and her little ones cruising the kiddie hot-spots in their "Rocket Van".