Being There. December 14, 2012Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death, Politics and Society.
Oh, what a beautiful morning! Clear skies, seasonable temps, a fresh pot of coffee.
You got The Boy up, fed and dressed, and Li’l Sis after that. You don’t even mind going to work – it’s Friday, after all!
So off you go, The Boy to kindergarten, Li’l Sis to daycare, you to work. It’s blue skies and puffy clouds all the way from here to The Weekend!
Mid-morning, the smell of coffee break gets you up from your chair. Some work behind you, a little more to go, a light afternoon – you’ve arranged to get out a bit early. Christmas shopping, you know. Your boss understands – she’s got kids, too.
Your pocket vibrates: a text message.
Reading it, you put your cup down slowly, trying to process. “Come to the school. emergency.” Your smile fades to a furrowed brow, and your boss notices.
“What’s up? Everything OK?”
“Yeah, I… I think so. Hey, I gotta pick my kid up at school. Do you mind if I…”
“No, go ahead. We’re good here, have a nice weekend. And get an early start on that shopping.” She smiles, with just a touch of concern in her eyes.
You’re driving a little wild as you get to the school. A text message? Not a phone call? You try calling to find out if The Boy isn’t feeling well, no answer. Very strange.
As you turn the last corner, there are police cars, lights flashing, and a blue hand pulls you over.
“I’m a parent, I need to get…”
The Officer tells you to leave the car right where it is and directs you to a side lot, where other parents are standing, waiting, anguished. Damn, why hadn’t you had the radio on? This looks like news, and you might have seen the congestion coming, had a clue.
Soon you’ve heard the worst of it: somebody with a gun, shootings. Your heart is in your throat. Shootings??
The Parent-Mob grows until it seems everybody in town is there, or at least everyone with young children.
Then, from the fire station, a teacher appears, leading her class, and two dozen parents break off from your group, run forward calling the names of their children, some crying, each desperate to hug and hold their little jewel.
Then another teacher and his brood, and more parents swoop forward, snatching their children from the clutches of gravity, thanking God, lavishing kisses, bathing confused little faces in tears of gratitude.
You watch the firehouse doors, praying for the sight of your teacher, The Boy’s teacher, but the next one isn’t her, and the next one isn’t her, and your chest feels like it’s in a vise.
You look around at the thinning crowd of faces, hearing only a roar in your ears where the desperate prayers of these other young parents should be, and you see mostly the parents of The Boy’s classmates. A slow, freezing cold grips you, the same awful cold you see in their eyes, and as a last group of parents break away and run toward their children, colliding in muffled sobs, you meet the eyes of the police separating you from the awful truth, see the grief and pity in the faces, their jaws clenched, their eyes filling as they struggle to Be Professional.
The woman next to you grabs your elbow, not looking at you, wild eyes overflowing, knees buckling. You catch her fall, this woman you now recognize as living half a block from you, the one with the little girl just The Boy’s age.
A police officer comes to your aid, helps her softly to the ground, and you see the look in his eyes, “I’m So Sorry,” and you know that her little girl isn’t coming out of that fire station.
And in that instant a lightning bolt sears its way through your mind, your heart, your soul, and you realize that The Boy isn’t coming out either.
Perhaps I should apologize for putting “you” into this account; after all, it wasn’t your child who was killed this beautiful Friday morning.
But there will be other Fridays, or Wednesdays or, God forbid, Sundays, and there will be other schools, temples, movie theaters, malls.
It happens in big cities, in small towns, wherever We The People might carve out our little piece of Heaven. It happens to Liberals and Conservatives, to Christians, Jews, Muslims and Atheists.
And there’s absolutely no reason it can’t happen to you or me, or to our children.
For a lot of parents in Newtown, Connecticut, there will be no Christmas shopping this weekend.
It’s time to talk about why.