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A Day of Tragedy

Wow. Today was pretty awful. Aside from the big news, a local teacher endured a threat against his life. There were shootings in two cities close to me. Our local mall experienced a bomb threat. There was a fatal car accident on the highway near my home. And then there was the big one– the school shooting. Can we just hit reset, please?

I wish we could.

I’m not particularly sure what I should be saying here. I’m not an authority on grief, nor am I trained in grief management. But it feels wrong to not say anything at all. I have spent the better part of my day being horrified and speechless and consumed by the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. I’m not a parent (yet) and I’m not a teacher (yet), but I am a human being who has found herself living in a world she doesn’t understand and doesn’t like very much.

I’ve spent a lot of time considering what living an authentic life means. Some days I have the vision clear in my head: aging farmhouse on a few acres with clapboard siding and old-fashioned working shutters. It has a wraparound porch and the stairs creak in certain spots, which in time, I’ll have memorized. If I imagine my life as a mother, I’m torn. Part of me is a firm believer in the public education system and the other part of me loves the idea of home-schooling. And events like that in Connecticut make me want to hide away in that fantasy world where I can have a clean house, write four books a year, home-school my children, and keep dog hair off the sofa, and still cook a healthy meal from scratch every night. Oh, and I’d like to assume there would be a Mr. Me in there somewhere.

So today I find myself torn because I realize that this life can’t possibly exist. There will always be dog hair on the sofa because I’m a sucker for my fur babies, and that’s not even accounting for claw marks from the cats. Farm houses on acres of land comes with a lot of maintenance. And then there’s the whole writing and home-schooling thing. In some ways, there is so much more I could teach a child outside of a classroom, safe at home. But I also recognize that there’s so much another person could teach my children, offering them another perspective of the world. This is where I find myself stuck between a rock and a hard place. How do parents make these choices and still sleep at night?

If I home-school my children will they be educated enough to compete at a university level and in the workplace?

If I send my children to public school, will they be safe?

I can’t help but imagine that it’s true what they say– there is no tougher job than being a parent. In no other capacity do people have the ability and the charge to make so many decisions for another little life. The thought is terrifying and thought-provoking all at once. The tragedy the parents of Newtown, Connecticut are facing today leads me to think about my own parents and what a gift it must be for them that I am alive and safe and have lived long enough to reach adulthood. I hadn’t thought of my own life in that way before. But now that I have, I can’t stop thinking about it, nor can I stop thinking about how awful this world can be.

You see, back in 1999 when I was a sophomore in high school, I lived in a world where school was a safe place to be. My parents rested easy knowing I was at school. And then that April came and the Columbine massacre happened. The week after that, my high school received anonymous bomb threats which was the beginning of a round of drills to prepare us in case someone came onto our open, outdoor campus and started shooting. A few shootings occurred over the next few years, and then 9/11 happened. And then the war on terror. And school shootings kept happening. Then earlier this year a theater full of Batman fans found themselves running for their lives from a madman intent on doing as much damage as he possibly could. And months later there were reports that a man had been stopped from doing essentially the same thing during a screening of Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part II. Last week a mall in suburban Portland, Oregon was shot up. Now this– and there have been countless other tragedies in between.

I don’t know how to be in this world and not fear for myself and those around me. I don’t know how to venture into large crowds, past metal detectors and high-tech screening machines and feel completely safe and at ease. I don’t know how to not worry about these things or how to ignore that they happen, if even for a little bit. And if I don’t want to worry about this because I can’t control it. There’s no way for me to reason it away or to make this better. I don’t know how to stop it from happening again or how or what to do to make this world a better, safer place. I’m at a loss and I feel helpless. And if there’s anything I really hate about everything else it’s feeling helpless. And if our president can barely keep the tears at bay, how can I? I don’t feel prepared for this. On some level, it just doesn’t feel real.

I don’t really know what the answer is, if there even is one. An answer would insinuate that these events are not senseless and that they do, in fact, have a point or that there’s a reason for them. I don’t want to live in a world where there’s a reason or a point to a five-year-old being shot to death. So I choose the other viewpoint– that there is no reason for it. It’s just something awful that happened and there’s no predicting when it will happen again. And because of this, I don’t much feel like writing about homicidal vampires tonight and this writer is taking the night off from the gore to spend some time with her family and count her blessings that at the very least, at this very moment, everyone she loves is safe and sound, and alive.

I’m not a particularly religious person, though I might be one of those people and say a prayer tonight for the souls of the children who lost their lives today and for their loved ones who are left behind.

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