As we come close to the one week anniversary of the tragic shooting at the Sandy Hook school in Newtown, CT, I can’t get my mind off of the parents whose children never came out. I can’t imagine what it could have been like to see the various classes led out by first responders (indeed, the news was full of such videos. If you haven’t seen enough, you can go here), and then to wait, and wait, and wait, until there were no more children coming from the school. Even then, even then I know those parents were thinking, “perhaps she’s hiding in a closet,” or “maybe he’s at the firehouse and I missed him,” or “she’s wounded, but she’ll be OK.”
Strangely, those awful moments may be what the parents of the children who died remember as the last “normal” moments of their lives, the hours and minutes before they knew for sure.
Parents do weird things. When our children are infants, we wake in the middle of the night and run to their cribs to make sure they are still breathing. If a toddler taken care of by a babysitter or nanny comes home in a different brand diaper from the one we use, we ask the caretaker, “where were you?”
When our 26-year-olds drive back to Albany on I87 and it’s already past dark and besides that it’s cold and rainy — possibly even cold enough for the rain to make the roads slick — we call them to make sure they arrived home safely.
It’s what we do as parents. We love our children. We do everything we can to protect them.
It’s what the parents in Newtown could not do and why we are all at such a loss about how we should respond. A woman with a mentally ill son writes a blog that goes viral. It seems to speak to us all. Raising a violent child is a nightmare, and there are not enough resources available to parents who fight this battle. Yet the post also enraged many people because it once again opened a door to the anti-gun-control apologists who say, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” I saw many rants on Facebook by people furious that the blog was getting so much play.
Nonetheless, it’s time our country began offering more help to the mentally. And those of us who want to tighten gun control laws, it’s time to write letters to our elected officials, to vote with our feet and our signatures. (Sharon Hodor Greenthal has a good list of resources for both mental illness and gun law advocacy in a recent blog on her Empty House, Full mind blog about the Sandy Hook Shootings.)
Still, what can we do that will really help the town? If we’re NY Giant football player Victor Cruz, we can write a victim’s name on our shoes and go talk to a dead child’s team and give some comfort.
The rest of us? Well some people changed their twitter avatars to pink daisies in memory of one of the little girls who loved daisies. Others are making cut out snow flakes from paper to decorate the new school where the kids who survived the massacre will return to school in January.
My Twitter Feed is filled with tweets like this:
At first I found these gestures annoying. It’s not like sending teddy bears or daisies to Newtown, CT will actually do anything that will effect change. It was different after Hurricane Sandy. We could give money to the Red Cross, and they would use it for victims. We could go help out in shelters. We could dig the sand from people’s basement floors. We could take action.
For Sandy Hook, it’s inaction that will speak, a moment a silence. Cutting snow flakes and sending them to the Newtown schools — I finally figured out that a piece of paper also speaks volumes. It says we care. It says, yes, our kids are here with us (or away from us), safe. Yes, it’s unimaginable to think what those parents went through, those parents whose children never came out of that school. A snowflake, a pink daisy. Small gestures. It’s all we have to give for now.
That and our voices and signatures and votes that will ensure that the kinds of guns and ammunition that aren’t even used by police or by hunters will not be available the next time someone, insane or just angry, decides he or she wants to kill people.