Monday, December 24, 2012


During my mid-morning coffee break on Friday, December 14, 2012, I was perusing a gossip site. Yes. Gossip. It’s my one, completely shallow pastime. While friends of mine read newspapers and academic journals, I try to keep up with Taylor Swift’s latest romance. I am sincerely worried that I am going to forget milestones in my children’s lives because the brain cells that would have been used to store those memories are busy retaining the names of Angelina Jolie’s kids.


I was reading a gossip site and stumbled on a comment that said, “This is completely off-topic, but there’s been a shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut.”

An elementary school? What?

I jumped over to The details at 10:30 a.m. were murky. The shooting was confirmed, as was the school’s state of lock down. There was a rumor that the principal had been killed, and possibly two others.

Immediately, I made wild assumptions nurtured by a healthy diet of true-crime television shows. Basically, I guessed that the principal had an angry husband or boyfriend who took that passion to her workplace, killed her, possibly a co-worker, and then himself. That’s how these things go, right?

I wish that I’d been right.

An hour later, after somewhat regular page refreshes, I saw that the victim count had risen significantly. And that some of the victims were likely children.

That thought hadn’t even entered my mind. I needed to know more, so I just kept searching, searching, searching for information among various news sources. And then, in the early afternoon, on the Hartford Courant’s main page, there it was:

26 Killed, 20 of Them Children

I nearly vomited. I haven't felt that kind physical response to emotion since mid-December, 2010, when it hit me like a freight train that my mother’s death would occur at any hour, any minute. This felt the same. After seeing that so many had died, so many of them children, I closed my office door and sat on the floor, hugging my knees to my chest.

Overly dramatic? I’m not that guy, I swear. I don’t make a meal out of minor inconveniences, railing at the heavens because of a parking ticket.  I feel things deeply, yes, but can usually rationalize my way out of those feelings. Displace them, because they aren’t mine to feel, and it’s indulgent to claim them as if it happened to me.  Why should I feel this devastated, this heartbroken?  I’ve never been to Newtown. I have no connection to it. I didn’t know those teachers, those children.

Except I do know them. I’m in that world now.  Two of my three kids are in elementary school. The Boy is eight and in third grade. The Girl is six and in Kindergarten. I collapsed because I could all too easily picture them, their beautiful, innocent, terrified faces, if they were in the same situation. I know the routine of school, how easy it is for people to get buzzed in (or, as we later found out, shoot his way in), and how little could be done to stop a broken-brained gunman from storming hallways papered with crayon drawings.

There’s a fresh wave of grief every time I read about it. I can’t not read about it, though. To avoid the news in an attempt to avoid the unpleasantness of sorrow is … well, it’s disrespectful. I have to know these things, painful and awful as they might be, because without knowing these things, I will be absent the tools I need to form opinions, make decisions, make plans, and vote when the time comes.

So, I'll expose myself to it, and mourn not only the lives lost, but the innocence as well. 

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