I almost had a panic attack this morning. It isn't that unusual, truthfully, since we're almost always running late and getting the four kids out the door can be crazy, especially combined with a dose of talk radio - all those factors can make me feel the need to curl up and rock myself like the little monkeys on the videos shown in Psychology 101. Today's feeling was different. Today I found myself hugging my kids closer and for longer and giving them more kisses and telling them "I love you," as I sent them out the door. Especially Buttercup. Buttercup is 6 years old. Buttercup is the same age and in the same grade of the little ones killed on Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary.
I spent Friday morning at my daughters' elementary school. A group of parents had volunteered to prep mountains of fleece for the four third grade classes to make into blankets for some homeless shelters in St. Paul. What I had expected to take about an hour ended up taking three as we evened out edges and cut the "ties" into yards and yards of fleece. Conversations between strangers, brought together by our kids, ranged from the silly to the deep - like conversations often do when a large group of women are tossed in together on a project. It was a lighthearted morning with lots of laughter ending with the fleece ready for the little third graders' fingers today. My knees are still sore from kneeling on the floor to trim the edges of numerous would-be blankets. I chatted with the office admin for a bit after we were finished. She's been part of our elementary school as long as I can remember - SwimGirl started there in 2nd grade and is graduating this year, so we've had at least one child at the school for ten years now - and is probably one of the best elementary school admins I've ever known. The school principal was also in and out - popping into our conference-room-turned-workroom to check in and chatting with parents as they moved through the office. The school is warm, inviting and staffed by absolutely wonderful teachers, paraprofessionals and administrators; we've loved our years at "our school."
When I got home, I received a text message from SwimGirl telling me about the shooting at Sandy Hook. Instead of turning on FoxNews, I went to my laptop and checked the news online. My heart hurt and tears filled my eyes as I read the news. The question going through my head continually was "Why? How could anyone kill little babies like this?" which I know was the question being asked by us all. Then the news broke about the ages of the children and I realized that they were Buttercup's age, causing the tears to flow again. I looked at our Christmas tree and thought about how there were children who wouldn't be opening their gifts, so lovingly wrapped and placed under the tree by their parents, on Christmas morning. My heart broke for the parents and siblings of the lost children. Then I started thinking about the terror of the surviving children - how will they ever go back to school without fear? Will they ever face a night where there are no nightmares to invade their slumber? Will they forever be looking at people, wondering if that person or that person or the one standing over there is actually someone bad who wants to kill them? How will they heal?
So, as I was sending my little girls to the bus, I caught myself clinging to them more tightly and having trouble letting them go. I found myself almost not sending them to school today. I know the school staff have regular emergency drills (I've participated in them as a volunteer) and procedures in place in the case of something horrible happening. Logically, I know these things. But my heart is another story. My heart tells me "This is a place where my kids should be safe. But they're not safe. Those parents thought their kids were safe at school and look what happened." So I clung to my kids a little more than usual this morning, regretting the days when I couldn't wait to see them all out the door and the house to be quiet for a few hours again. I can't imagine the heavy quiet at the homes of the victims of Friday's tragedy. I can't imagine a home where the anticipation of chaos isn't always hanging in the air until the chaos of my four wonderful kids invades my house.
My heart hurts for the parents and families of those poor children and the adults who died trying to protecting them. My prayers are with them.