Three years ago this afternoon I was driving with my then three year old in the back seat. We were stuck in traffic coming home from Milwaukee. My husband called me wondering if I had heard the news. What news?, I asked. I was grateful the boy was sleeping, as I listened to the reports about a school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut most of the way home.
Something changed for me that day.
There was a convergence of my own grief from having lost a child, living in a city where gun violence is rampant, and the idea of someone holding an arsenal targeting a school of defenseless children. Like many mothers, that day wrecked me. My boy was only in pre-school at the time and I was able to shelter him from news about schools not being a safe place, but I wept at the idea of young children being murdered, shot, dying through random gun violence.
Now, with my boy being in first grade himself, I can’t help but think of an armed intruder targeting his school, walking his halls, methodically shooting and killing twenty first grade classmates and six teachers and administrators. Now I know the names and faces.
America changed that day. I changed that day. Maybe you did, too. Certainly every parent who lost a child that day now lives a life that is unrecognizable to the lives they enjoyed on December 13, 2012.
My boy attends a Chicago public school. He stands in a long, snaking line every morning waiting his turn to walk through a metal detector. His teachers run “intruder drills” every fall. These practices are common place to him and don’t appear to cause him great distress. He knows no different. The principal of his school made a passing reference earlier this fall how lucky the students in Kindergarten and first grade are, as they have a storage room inside their classrooms — something the older grades don’t have access to. Her point was that they would have an extra layer of safety in the case of a deranged, gun wielding monster who intended to shoot rooms full of school children.
This is the world we live in now, folks.
The truth is that life moves on and routine takes over. Politics and personal feelings about rights have become more important than the shock and fear and outrage that was almost universally felt in those hours and days after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary. Conspiracy theories abound suggesting that these children and teachers never lived, their existence something of a hoax, the broken lives of their families invalidated to prove a point.
I make no bones about where I stand on gun violence. Some of you agree with me, some of you do not. I am past the point of thinking that my words about this subject make a difference. One mom at a keyboard in her living room is no match for the endless resources of the NRA. I get it.
But wherever you stand on the matter of guns, please take a moment to remember these children today. Think about the holes in their bodies, the blood on their clothing, the procession of tiny, little caskets being lowered into the ground. Think about their surviving parents, older and younger brothers and sisters, grandparents who wonder how they can still be alive when their grandchild is dead. Say their names, even if only a whisper.
Remember the fear and anger and horror you felt that day three years ago before life became routine again.