Like many people - and in particular, I imagine, parents of school-age children - I went to bed last night with a very heavy heart after hearing of the school shooting in Connecticut. The last things I did before going to bed were to look in on Blake who was sleeping, and give an extra hard hug to Noah who was not really in the mood for sleep and was thus in bed with us. The horror and the desperation that so many of those parents must be feeling is beyond understanding.
There have been other random shootings in America in recent history, and they have all no doubt been equally horrific, but this one in particular strikes such a nerve: as President Obama said, these children were beautiful children between the ages of 5 and 10, no doubt full of life and energy, wonder at the world, with so much still to discover in their lives which have now been cut short far far too soon. I can't help but look at Blake - who in his first year at school, is probably the age of many of these kids - and smile at the funny things he's saying and doing, and imagine the unimaginable pain I would feel if something were to happen to him or Noah. The timing, so close to Christmas - a time that really is for children, before you get jaded by the consumerism and stress of it all - makes it that much more hard to bear. You can imagine that many families were so looking forward to visits by Santa, trips to see family, taking a break from the hecticness of the season and enjoying the holiday season as families - now their lives have just been turned completely upside-down and changed forever.
The randomness of it all only feels more awful - thinking of the relief that the parents whose children survived this, but the horror of those whose children were in the classroom where the gunman targetted - why their children? Why did this guy snap? And what would lead someone to target children who are completely innocent? It also makes my heart break for educators all over - especially to think about my parents who devoted their working lives to teaching...we all takes risks every day - in our cars, or on public transportation, and the risk of terror is probably everywhere - but school should be sacred, a place where fun and learning can take place without fear of attack. I feel even more sad reading that the principal had recently installed higher security for Sandy Hook; obviously the safety of the children was high on her priority list, and somehow that failed. How many weekdays do parents send their children off to school, assuming that they will come back home safely at the end of the day, full of stories about what they learned, what they did with their friends, what they're looking forward to doing the next day? Equally painful is the knowledge that nowhere is immune to insanity - Connecticut is the place of so many wonderful memories for me, and to imagine the peacefulness of the small-town community and how it has been shattered, is very tough.
As for the inevitable issue that will be front and center in the aftermath - gun control -I hope that somehow something good comes out of this, and that politicians will find a way to avoid this happening again. Unfortunately, I doubt that will be the case, as many Americans hold very tightly to the words of the Constitution and to the right to bear arms. Reading that the guns he used had been bought legally by his mother will no doubt confuse the issue. It's just hard to believe that America, as a land of the free, can be a place where freedom - of everyone to grow, learn, love - can so easily be taken away so quickly by crazy people wielding guns.
My thoughts and prayers will be with the community of Newtown. I hope Santa has some time to make it up to Heaven to deliver the gifts to the children who won't get to experience Christmas here on earth. And I pray that the parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters of the children - and the families of the adults whose lives were also lost - find strength in the memories of their loved ones. For the rest of us, how lucky we are; I guess we just all need to hug our children and hope that we never know tragedy like that.