ahhh, the life of a diplomatic princess . . .

This Just Can’t Be Who We Are

Yesterday I read an article in the Washington post about a family whose child was killed in the Newtown school shootings, it was heartbreaking and important and I sat at my kitchen table wiping away tears as I read. Reading about this family struggling to put their lives back together, to move forward for the boy’s siblings, made me realize that all of our lives have gone on but, in some ways, theirs are frozen in time. It is relatively easy, after the initial horror passes, for those of us not personally touched by such a shocking, violent event to start to intellectualize things. On the one hand, that’s important because we need to think about what happened, we need to figure out how to prevent it happening again. On the other hand, there are twenty six families for whom what happened in Newtown can never be put into an intellectual box–the emotional tangle of disbelief, profound loss, grief, rebuilding of  lives, and all the other things they must be experiencing prevents that from ever happening.

The article made me think, really think, about what it means for parents to not only lose a child but to lose a child in such a brutal, violent way. Maybe, as a mother, I’d not thought about how horrifying that would be because it’s just too bloody scary to think of losing a child to violence, to know that they were terrified in their last moments and you couldn’t be there to hug them close, to comfort them, to try to protect them. This is the part of the article that really drove all of this home for me:

But lately everything about the house reminded them of Daniel, comfort and affliction all at once. Up there, on the ceiling, was the sticky toy he had bought in a vending machine and accidentally thrown too high. In the kitchen was the blender Mark had used to make him a smoothie each afternoon, always with four gummy vitamins at the bottom of the glass, always, in Daniel’s words, “the best one yet!” Out front was the dead-end road where he had waited for the school bus in a sprinter’s crouch each morning, so he could run alongside it for a block before climbing on board. Out back was the wooden play structure where he had knocked his head and bled for the first time, which sometimes made Mark and Jackie wonder about the last time. Had it been quick? Had he been scared? Had anybody held him?

When you have kids it’s not just your heart that is filled by them, it’s your home. I looked around and saw just how much of my children there is on every counter, in every corner, on every bookshelf, closet, wall, floor, our home is filled with our children–stray stuffed animals, a book half read on the arm of the couch, toy cars lined up in a row, a creation taped to a wall, a hair band, a marker top … If you lost a child none of that would be erased, those spaces wouldn’t be cleaned they would just be emptied, never filled in the same way, and you would still know your child was gone, taken from you, stolen.

When I finished reading the article I composed myself and went in search of one of my children. My youngest, my “sweet sweet baby” as he is nicknamed, was at a sleepover, I was desperate to feel him in my arms. My middle child was having her computer time, playing minecraft. I wandered into the office and asked her how it was going, she smiled and told me all about what she was building and as she did that I ran my fingers through her hair, thinking about parents who would never be able to experience these simple joys again–the velvet touch of  your child’s hair, the sound of your child’s voice. I can’t imagine, I just can’t. I looked at my beautiful little girl, so vibrant and joyful, so many possibilities ahead of her, so much promise, so much excitement in store for her, and just felt profoundly grateful that she was sitting next to me.

When we were preparing to leave Ireland my oldest told me he was worried about going to school in Virginia, he said he was scared it wasn’t safe, scared that someone would come into his classroom with a gun. I reassured him it wouldn’t happen, that it was rare for something like that to happen, that he would be safe. I reassured him while keeping it to myself that I was scared of the same thing. It happened to me, when I was in college, and it was traumatizing. Nobody was hurt, the man was tackled by students and taken away by police, but huddling under a desk watching a screaming man wildly waving a gun around is terrifying. We were adults, I can’t imagine children going through that, I can’t imagine what they saw in their last moments, and, honestly, I would rather not, at least not to dwell on it.

Our Constitution was written to be fluid, to evolve as we evolve, and it was written during a time when high capacity rifles didn’t exist, when it wasn’t possible to steal twenty six lives in the blink of an eye. It is so important to acknowledge that, as of now, this is the choice we’ve made, we’ve chosen guns over children. We’ve chosen extremism over sensible, reasonable regulations. Really. What does that say about who we are, what we value, the future we want for our children?

I want my kids to be safe, I want them not to be frightened, I want that for all children. For now, reassuring my children that they are safe in the US, as much as I need to do that, feels like a bit of a lie. This just can’t be who we are.


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5 thoughts on “This Just Can’t Be Who We Are

  1. I can’t even begin to imagine their pain. Such a heartbreaking things to have happened. It makes me kiss and hug my little ones just that much more.

  2. “…we need to think about what happened, we need to figure out how to prevent it happening again.”

    If some people could get past their bigotry and intolerance, then the solution is easy, relatively inexpensive, and proven to work.

    The problem started when Congress passed the Gun Free School Zone Act which advertised that schools were a place where a psycho could kill a lot of people without much resistance until the police arrived, which would usually be plenty long enough for his sick purposes. Then he usually commits suicide (or he intended to, but lost his nerve and surrenders to police).

    Then the media did day after day – 24hour – coverage of the murderer. What did this teach these sick people? It taught them they could indeed have their names known to almost everyone in America and have their picture and life story broadcast to the world.

    Is it any big surprise it keeps happening again and again? If it is a big surprise to anyone, then they are hopeless in terms of mental capacity.

    Why don’t these people attack police stations? Is it because of the guns? Why don’t these people attack private sites with armed guards, or banks, or other place where armed people might stop them?

    The answer is obvious. Repeal the bigoted and intolerant Gun Free School Zones and make sure responsible people in schools do have access to guns to defend children. There are many ways that could be accomplished. A couple schools in Texas now allow teachers who obtain a concealed carry permit to bring a concealed handgun to school to defend children. It works.

    The answer again is obvious, make schools a hard target, not an easy one. For a small amount of money – relatively- you could put a locked cabinet in the principal’s office with a couple loaded and ready to go AR-15 rifles. Give keys to the people who work in that area. They would have blown ahead the tard at Newton long before he had killed kids if they had had the tools and minimal training.

    So get real. If you tears and heartbreak are real then refuse to let our children continue to be victims. Arm teachers and secretaries and protect children. Denounce the bigotry and intolerance of people who hate guns more than they love children.

    My wife is a teacher of very young children in a public school in Texas. She would carry a concealed handgun if it were legal.


    • The US has the highest civilian gun ownership rates (leaps and bounds over other developed nations) and our gun homicide rates are off the charts. According to a Harvard study that focused on developed nations, more guns equal more violence. This study included 26 nations and in each one researchers found that the higher the gun availability the higher the homicide by gun rate. You are twenty times more likely to die from gun violence in the US than in other developed nations. Twenty times! But adding more guns into the mix is the answer?

      Are you asserting that having guns in a school is a preventative measure? That the mentally ill man who clearly is not living in reality and has a history of violence is going to stop and think “wait, the principle has a gun in a safe, I’d better not do this!” Or are you asserting that there should be weapons in the classroom so when he barges in armed to the teeth he and the teachers can have a shootout with the children caught in the middle? Neither of those scenarios sounds good.

      Please don’t tell me to “get real.” I am looking at statistics, facts, data comparing our developed nation with other developed nations. Again, the US has, by far, the highest civilian ownership of guns than any developed nation and you are, by far, more likely to die from gun violence in the US. These two facts don’t exist in a vacuum and the correlation between them has been demonstrated time and again by researchers who have no agenda.

      As a parent of three children I would never enroll my children in a school where it was legal for the teachers to carry concealed weapons. I think what you should ask yourself is why are we such a violent nation? Why is it that 15 out of the 25 worst school shootings have happened in the US? It isn’t because the teachers aren’t armed, teachers in other nations where school shootings are incredibly rare aren’t armed, either. So what is the correlation?

      Also, your use of the word “tard” is pretty reprehensible. There is no excuse for using the R word, it’s derogatory and insulting.

  3. I’m pretty sure that Fort Hood wasn’t a gun free zone. It was, in fact, a military installation filled with armed people. That didn’t stop Maj. Nidal Malik Hassan with killing 13 people and injuring 32.,0,2730746.story

    The presence of guns didn’t seem to save Chris Kyle either. He was arguably one of the best shots in the world. He was armed at the time of his murder, and was at a shooting range, presumably surrounded by “good guys with guns.”

    The reason none of these things helped is that we do not live in an action movie, where the well armed hero, never panics, never misses, and never, ever shoots the wrong person. In the real world people make mistakes, often lethal ones. There was an armed civilian at the Tuscan, Arizona shooting where 17 people were shot, six were killed and Rep. Gabby Giffords was critically injured. In the violence and confusion, that armed bystander, Joe Zamudio almost shot the wrong man. In his own words:

    “I came out of that store, I clicked the safety off, and I was ready,” he explained on Fox and Friends. “I had my hand on my gun. I had it in my jacket pocket here. And I came around the corner like this.” Zamudio demonstrated how his shooting hand was wrapped around the weapon, poised to draw and fire. As he rounded the corner, he saw a man holding a gun. “And that’s who I at first thought was the shooter,” Zamudio recalled. “I told him to ‘Drop it, drop it!’ ”

    But the man with the gun wasn’t the shooter. He had wrested the gun away from the shooter. “Had you shot that guy, it would have been a big, fat mess,” the interviewer pointed out.

    Zamudio agreed:

    I was very lucky. Honestly, it was a matter of seconds. Two, maybe three seconds between when I came through the doorway and when I was laying on top of [the real shooter], holding him down. So, I mean, in that short amount of time I made a lot of really big decisions really fast. … I was really lucky.”

    In the real world, people don’t always get that lucky. This is closer to what actually happens.

    As I teacher with over 15 years of experience, I can tell you that it is just too easy, in the midst of a confusing classroom fight for a student to take the teacher’s gun. Arming teachers will cause more tragedies than it will prevent.

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