i was already halfway to school when it happened. i think i could have told myself it's not that scary, it is really rare, and everything's fine. but, if my facebook feed is to be believed, there were two violent elementary school attacks and one threatened attack last friday alone.
newtown: no explanation needed.
china: in a country with very strict gun laws, a man attacked a school room filled with 22 children with an 8 inch blade. terrible violence. cut off fingers, cut off ears. they have all survived their injuries. they are all at home with their families.
cedar lake, indiana: a man tells his wife he's going to set her on fire as soon as she goes to sleep. then he decided he would rather kill her at the school, where she works in the cafeteria, and then shoot up as many jane ball elementary students as he could. oh, but he was just pretending. "bluffing". being silly. maybe just a little angry. thank goodness for sunk ships by loose lips and the fact that even the most terrifying people can find someone to marry them and report them. the police found a collection of 47 guns and ammo worth $100,000. despite him being on the loose all day friday in the woods surrounding the school, it appears they did not send the children home.
the 10 9-11 year olds killed yesterday by a land mine while gathering firewood in afghanistan just iced the tragedy cake.
considering these were all within hours of each other, there isn't even a copycat factor to consider. so my brain, driving to school, says, "oh god. there's a copycat factor consider now. exponential things." my eyes drank their own tears while i walked oliver to the white top. i just kept trying not to think, "lambs to slaughter?" i began to panic. i tried to ascertain if there were plenty of school children who had been kept home. i wondered if it was too late to teach oliver how to hide quietly. how to say safe. when to run as fast as he could run and never stop. how to say all that to him without terrifying him for the rest of his life.
having children is so hard. SO HARD. and as many emotional surprises there are to stumble upon by having them, i guess you don't really consider this would have to be one of them. senseless, purposeless, randomly executed, utterly cruel violence. authors don't include that in guides to surviving parenthood and it is with great frequency that i wonder why i ever put myself in such a delicate place.
i felt illness for a fraction of a second as a passed the corner of a building and caught sight of a length of yellow caution tape strung up around a large area on the white top. my primal bits calculated another tragedy before my refined sensibilities realized the map of the united states had been repainted over the weekend. i don't know. maybe not the best idea to put up what looks like police tape all around where people are dropping off their children for the first time post-massacre.
i felt alarmed when i noticed oliver's class line contained only 8 out of 25 students. a meager 6 in the 1H line. i'm hoping children were inside due to the cold and not that i was supposed to keep him home and clutched safely to my breast while i googled homeschooling curriculums.
i noticed the first teacher coming to pick up her students. late 20s, early 30s. what was she thinking? was she wondering if she would ever be able to use her body as a shield for her students? did she wonder if she would have to?
i gave oliver a hug and told him i love him. as he walked away, i told him i love him again.
then i put violet in the car to do it all over again. it was her class who kept popping into my mind as mental surrogates for the newtown kindergarten class, though oliver's class is really the same age. you know, you personalize these things. what would it feel like if... i didn't want to think these things and i would quickly shut them down. but it was violet's class i would see. i saw the father in the car next to mine getting his son out. he was hugging him for a long time. i don't know... maybe the kid was just having a rough morning over something else.
i helped violet out of her jacket, helped her retrieve the pecans from her pocket. watched her hang it up. hugged hugged hugged her, which i usually do. tried not to cry until i got to the car. blamed it on the brisk temperatures stinging my eyes.
i didn't tell oliver about the news. he has an odd detachment when it comes to tragedy. a fascination about its underpinnings. i don't know. maybe it's not odd so much as one of the ways of being a six year old. he was more fascinated by the demise of big tex and seems to have no concept of the impact of something burning up. maybe he heard one too many jesus stories because he is entirely confident in the act of resurrection. he saw a huge truck loaded with twisted concrete and rebar the other day and assumed it was new big tex material. on the way home friday, like two minutes later, we stopped directly opposite a completely fresh wreck. large pieces of cars were on the road. front ends smashed in, a stunned driver with a deflated airbag in his face and the panel missing from his door was just yards away. oliver began calculating what caused the wreck. no horror. no fear. i don't know if it makes me feel scared or relieved. but anyway.
i didn't tell him. i took a caclculated risk, hoping not as many parents who informed their children of big tex would inform them of newtown. maybe the weekend would be long enough to soften the buzz. i don't know of what good could come by telling him. i don't know what bad could come by telling him.
all weekend, i would look at their little faces surrounding impossibly big eyes. i can't understand how anyone, ANYONE, could look into faces just like that, twenty different times, and do what that person did. each shot close up, more than once. i heard this morning he only used a fraction of the ammo he had brought with him. i can't help but think that even someone as deranged as he was couldn't live another minute with what he was in the middle of doing. a screaming conscience driving him to turn the gun on himself. body armor useless.
i made a couple of videos of the children. there's a voice recording of violet's interpretation of "santa's kwanzaa" last night. i keep thinking of the parents of these children. what are they supposed to do with the xmas gifts they bought? their rooms. their dirty cereal bowls in the sink? they waited in that fire house until no more children were there to be matched up. they just waited and then they knew. their babies stayed in there all night. they couldn't get to them.