My kids slept out at their grandparent’s last night. I slept in this morning, something I almost never do. Shortly after I awoke, I went on Facebook on my iphone by rote. I found the usual blather and some references to another shooting. I checked my emails. I sauntered out of bed, relishing in the quiet and the complete lack of obligatory tasks. No kids around, such ease, such a treat.
I sat at my computer and checked my blog, my twitter and finally The Huffington Post.
Smack on the front page, a photo of young children single file being ushered by a couple of frantic looking adults.
A headline that referred to 18 children dead (this was the initial report).
Now, it is almost 1am and that was about 16 hours ago and I am still stuck with that knot in my chest, that immediate and sustained grief. Only now, I have gone through countless bouts of crying. I have my children back, safely asleep. Tonight I relished in the noise of them, the demands of them, the smell of them, the softness of their cheeks, the hugs I was able to steal over and over, there for the taking. And in my mind’s imagination, obsessively nagging, is a scene of those parents standing outside the school waiting and praying in terror for their little ones to come out of that building. And, I know that the only indication they had that their precious children were dead, was when all had exited but theirs.
How long do you wait? How long do you pray in disbelief and in the absence of physical evidence that your child is dead? I imagine myself on my knees and eventually collapsed on the ground waiting forever for my child to march out. How do you walk away? Where do you go?
Those beautiful children are gone. Those precious adults who cared for them that perished, are gone. And we are collectively grieving with the left behind. Because, fair or not, there is something especially unfathomable about the most defenseless and innocent among us being terrorized and murdered. All life has value but this, even the most stoic, the most desensitized can’t fully process what must have transpired in that school.
Many have suggested that now is not the time to talk about gun control, that now is the time to grieve. I say now is the time to grieve and now is ALSO the time to parse down to the minutia what can be done to protect our children and our communities from such tragedies.
It is fair to ask why anyone has a right to own a weapon that shoots 154 rounds in under a minute? It is fair to ask why a mentally ill young man performed this heinous act and why he had access to these weapons. It is fair to ask why we as a nation have such a disproportionately high number of these types of shootings. In fact it is not just fair, it is our obligation to ask these questions and so many more.
The 2nd Amendment states that we have the right to bear arms. It does not say we can have grenades or missiles or machine guns. In fact, it doesn’t clarify what we can have. So, I’m sick of people throwing around the 2nd Amendment as an excuse to avoid enacting stricter gun laws or to at least have a thorough examination of what is and is not working in that vein.
There are other countries in which gun ownership is high with far fewer incidences of violent crimes. In those countries service in the military is mandatory contingent on passing mental health evaluations and requiring rigorous training. I believe that the training makes these gun owners more responsible and aware. Also, these cultures are fostering a strong sense of duty to their communities and fellow citizens. I am not saying we should have mandatory military service but we should consider how we are or are not fostering a sense of responsibility and service.
It behooves all of us, myself included, to really take stock of what values we are modeling and imparting to our children. That is one thing we can do right now, without equivocation, commit to serving our communities, commit to paying more real attention to our children, our neighbors, our extended families, even strangers.
This goes beyond gun control. This tragedy degrades us collectively as a nation. Every question and every possible solution is worth exploring and, if in any way viable, implementing now. And legislation must be forthcoming.
To my title- When 20 children die, everything else seems trivial; Rephrase, everything else IS trivial – NOTHING I have experienced personally comes close to mattering in relation to the loss of these innocent children’s lives. I am humbled this morning. I am eternally grateful…for my children, for the privilege of being a mother and to be able worry about the little things. Heck, I’m even grateful for my ex.
I wish somehow those parents and loved ones of the deceased can find solace in this lifetime. I wish all of our grief and empathy could soothe them. And, I wish this tragedy compels us to fucking do something.