It's been quite a while since I posted anything here which seems to be my new M.O. There are those times, however, that make me decide I have to vent and let my feelings out if even to be put into words appearing on a screen. Whether others read it or not, it helps me to say what I am feeling so I can come to terms with the incredible emotions being felt. Today, of course, is one of those times.
The day started as any other Friday at work, my first call coming in from a co-worker who, somewhere during the initial part of the call, was perusing the online news feed of his computer. "Oh, great. Another school shooting. Somewhere in CT. Great way to start a Friday." He was, of course, being very sarcastic. We were sharing our thoughts at the unbelievable nature of these situations only briefly before moving on to the subject of work. After a few minutes we ended the call and I began searching the web for information I needed. When I brought up my homepage, it was then I saw the depth of the situation. The reports at that time had 26 people dead - 18 students and 8 adults. I was sure this was another high school shooting until.....I saw the photos. Photos of children being led by policewomen in blue windbreakers and holding radios guiding a line of children that appeared to be in elementary school. If the caption hadn't existed, this might have even looked like a line of children heading to a bus for a field trip. Instead, it was a class being taken to safety, guided by these women. These were...children! I know that teenagers are children, too, though in these times that is easy to forget. These children, though, are 10 years old and under. Kindergarten through 4th grade. How was this possible?
We know now that there are 20 children dead. We also know there are 6 adults dead. I say children, though we might as easily use the term babies. I have a 16-year old daughter who, as any father will attest, will always be my baby. The difference, however, is that she has seen things that taught her there is evil in the world. She knows how to be 'streetwise' and aware of her surroundings. These babies have not seen those things, nor do they understand the true concept of evil. At least they hadn't known it until today. As I turned on the television, my thoughts went immediately to my 5-year old granddaughter. She spent the night with us the other evening and, best of all, wanted to bake cookies with me. She fell asleep in front of the television and, after carrying her to bed, I tucked her in safe and sound. In the morning, I got to relive times I had spent with my daughter when she was that age. I gently woke her, helped her get dressed and brushed her teeth before whisking her away to daycare. She talked the entire time we drove to school and I soaked in the memories like a sponge. I was transported back to a magical time about 12 years ago that I had, to some degree, forgotten. Today, though, I watched the television and openly wept. I felt the tears run down my cheek as I said out loud, "These were just defenseless children, you bastard!" I thought of friends and family that have young children and how none of us are ever prepared for the loss of a child in any fashion, much less at the hands of a sick, demented, twisted individual that did this for a reason no one can understand, nor one that can, in any way, be justified.
These were children whose main concern was what would be under their Christmas trees in 10 days. They were thinking about what they'd tell Santa when he asked if they were good little boys and girls and what they wanted for Christmas. They were thinking about the fun they'd have over their Christmas break. They were, most likely, thinking about this being the most incredible time of the year. Christmas, from this point forward, will be forever darkened for the families of the children that were in that school today. This will forever be an anniversary of this tragedy and will take more than a little time to heal. We will all, for some time to come, remember this as we did Columbine.
We'll spend the next few days analyzing and listening to details of why he did it, what he was thinking. We won't really care, though. Babies have died needlessly. We will talk about gun control and mental illness. We will propose and pass legislation. We will hear it on talk radio shows and national television. We will discuss it at length and, in the end, it will happen again. We will hear this news over and over again because we are drifting as a society, our moral compasses helplessly spinning. I don't profess to have the answer, though I know it is not a gun control issue that requires more worthless legislation. Every time we pass a new law, there are so many loopholes that we could drive a truck through them. There are certain guns on the market that are not needed for self-defense. This isn't the day for that conversation, though. Today's conversation is how do we help, even in a small way, these families heal?
I am, and always will be, a fan of the television show, "The West Wing." I have always thought the writing to be insightful and moving, while at times providing incredible quotes that fit our times and situations. One such quote that I think describes how I feel tonight is this:
"All I know for sure, all I know for certain, is that they weren't born wanting to do this. There's evil in the world, there'll always be, and we can't do anything about that. But there's violence in our schools, too much mayhem in our culture, and we can do something about that. There's not enough character, discipline, and depth in our classrooms; there aren't enough teachers in our classrooms. There isn't nearly enough, not nearly enough, not nearly enough money in our classrooms, and we can do something about that. We're not doing nearly enough, not nearly enough to teach our children well, and we can do better, and we must do better, and we will do better, and we will start this moment today! They weren't born wanting to do this."
Mark my words, and I have heard it from others being interviewed today, this will happen again. We need to stop asking why and become parents again. I have asked over the past several years when we stopped being able to discipline our children. I remember that spankings were thought to be detrimental to the child and that parents, if allowed to continue this practice, would far too easily abuse the child. I'd like to go on record as saying it has gotten out of control. I have seen children speak to their elders in a way that would have gotten me a quick meeting with my father's belt or hand. I would have experienced punishment (and did) that made me learn my lesson which, truth be told, was needed. We need to teach right from wrong and, though I am not an advocate of spanking and used it as an example, need to discipline our youth. Would that have saved these children? I don't know. No one does. I can say, though, that without discipline we are headed far off the course that needed to be set. Making sure we discipline our children is a responsibility and not doing so is detrimental to not just them, but society as a whole. Ask any of the parents of the children that died today. Now, here I am ranting about child discipline, not knowing if it was a factor or not. I can only assume, based on the previous situations we've seen, that it was. Parents, too consumed with giving their children everything they ask for, have forgotten to give them the things they are truly in need of - our time and our love.
In another line stolen from the series, I'll paraphrase when I say, the streets of heaven are filled with too many angels tonight. They are angles that should not be there but, rather, here waiting for that special day, Christmas. They should be here, their nights filled with the anticipation of this holiday. They should be snuggled in their beds counting down the days until that night, only 10 days from now, when they would pull the covers around them, fight sleep as long as they could, then drifted off only to awaken and run downstairs to see that the magic really exists. These were babies and we cannot imagine, even as adults, the unspeakable hell they went through today. Their friends and teachers that were fortunate enough to survive will never forget this day and will carry this with them forever. We can only hope that they will honor their classmates' memories by learning respect and discipline. We can only hope they will hold their own children close, later in life, and let them know they are loved every minute of every day.
I have ranted more than usual, written more than I should, and gone off on too many tangents. Regardless, I feel a little better and my tears have dried for now. I hope we all, from this point forward, do our parts to help each other do what we can to stop this madness. We owe it to each other, if only through random acts of kindness that we commit as often as possible.
Until next time.............