These past few days remind me of how I felt in the wake of September 11th. I kept hoping that it really didn't just happen, that we all suffered from a massive hallucination and when I woke up the next day it would be erased. And then when I accepted the awful truth of what happened, nothing felt right. I walked around feeling as if I were constantly at a funeral – long stretches of great and uncomfortable sorrow, punctuated by side splitting laughter – the later helped to remind myself that I was still alive.
There are multiple levels to how deep of a hole this tragedy has caused. I keep pealing back the layers of connection and it is shredding me to pieces. My connection starts at the top, being a human, an American citizen. I have the sad realization that there is something fundamentally decayed in a society that believes it is an individual’s right to own multiple high caliber guns, whose only purpose is to kill as many people as possible. Since when did this ownership of violence become a right? If you cannot smoke in a public restaurant, you sure as shit shouldn't be allowed to carry a gun into that same space. Fuck this Wild West mentality, fuck your ‘right’ to bear arms, fuck all of these guns, fuck this selfish, greedy monster, this I, me, mine attitude that is rotting us into oblivion.
As a mother I am afraid. Afraid in a primordial sense, the same way I felt exposed and incapable after September 11th. That fear will always reside inside of me. That fear comes to the surface when I bring the girls out, whether to the library or the supermarket and I always check and double check the exits. My most basic job as a mother is to protect my babies. When tragedies like these occur I am painfully reminded of how little I can protect my girls. I tell myself, “You survived 9-11. You dodged that disaster. You will be OK.” And now this massacre happens. The game has been changed – again. My loved ones survived – but once again I will be fundamentally changed.
Our family does not go to church for many reasons. But I have always felt that our daughter’s school serves a very similar purpose for our family. We believe in public education and are proud to be a part of our school community. It is vital to the soul of our neighborhood and an essential part of what makes our city thrive. Cliff and I volunteer at our school - as many parents do- because we believe that it supports our teachers which in turn helps the children learn and grow. We have a responsibility to each other and we are united at their elementary school for the same fundamental goals.
I am a substitute teacher at my daughter’s school. I substitute for classroom teachers and for the special education teachers. Over the course of a school year I experience the unique position of teaching and interacting with nearly every child in that school. I think I could name nearly every one of them. I love my job – truly, love it. I love being a part of something that is bigger than myself. I spend many hours each week at school, as a teacher and as a mother. It is a focal point of my life.
School is a sacred place. It is where magic and inspiration occurs every day. It is where children learn to read and where many get their only meals of the day. That sacred place has been violated. I am so sad. I don’t believe in the afterlife of Heaven or the damnation of Hell. I believe that this earthly plane can be Heaven and Hell. When Cliff or the girls tell me they love me I am in Heaven. When I am cooking dinner and the girls are reading and doing homework I am in Heaven. When we snuggle the girls to bed and after Cliff and I talk about our day and hang out together with our cat George, our home feels like a raft of safety, it is Heaven. But sadly, it is punctuated by moments like this that we all have a bitter taste of Hell.