I spent most of Friday glued to the TV as the events in Newtown, Connecticut unfolded. You would think after covering news for more than 20 years, I’d have seen it all. But the depths of sickness and evil continue to plummet.
I can’t fathom a story more horrific or tragic. It left the nation feeling helpless and distraught, imagining the pain the victims’ families and that community must feel.
I woke up Saturday morning wondering what those mothers were thinking when they opened their eyes to another day to endure without their children. I went through the motions of my day, but at some point every hour or so I felt my spirit sinking as a memory of the scene or a TV interview flashed through my mind.
I was most moved by one teacher’s account to Diane Sawyer about how she hid 15 1st graders in a bathroom and tried to keep them quiet. Some kids cried and said they wanted their mommies, others said they just wanted to go home and celebrate Christmas. One boy said he would protect them because he knew karate. I could completely hear my 7-year-old saying that. (You can watch the interview here. I dare you not to cry.)
On the way home from a basketball game Saturday afternoon, I had my 12-year-old and 7-year-old in the car with me as we listened to Maroon 5 singing “Moves Like Jagger.” We all bopped in our seats and belted out the words and as I glanced back at them, I felt a rush of emotion. It was that feeling that sometimes comes when your kid achieves a goal, says something amazing, or gives you a longer hug than usual. A sense of connection, a reminder of bottomless love.
I felt that for a moment as I watched my two boys smiling and singing so happily in the car, without a care in the world. Then I bit my lip and swallowed hard as I felt the tears coming.
I was grateful for the simple moment of joy….relieved that my boys were safe. Then came a wave of guilt for my good fortune. It’s not fair that I get to sing in the car while parents and grandparents and brothers and sisters are grieving and asking why.
I keep turning the TV on, looking for some satisfactory motive, but there is only speculation. I’ve seen reports on the bravery of teachers and first responders, and endless advice on how to talk to your kids about this kind of violence in a place that’s supposed to be secure.
The more I see, the more I weep.
One of the most frightening parts of this story– and many like it in recent months– is that now there seems to be no place impervious to random violence. Not a movie theater, not a shopping mall, and now not even an elementary school.
We can’t always protect our kids from harm. What we can do is pay attention to singing in the car, covet those moments, and hope they last a lifetime.
p.s. If you want to do something to help, there’s a pay-it-forward movement to help buy dinner for a Newtown family to show they’re in our thoughts. You can read about it here.