I have thought long and hard about adding my voice to the many who have cried out for the victims of the CT school shooting in the last few days. Part of me wanted to keep silent, for so many reasons. Others have done it such justice (what justice can be had), how could I have more to say? A more honest part of me simply did not want to dwell on the details of the horror. Addressing it meant thinking about it, and I was not ready for that.
It did not happen to me--to ours--but it could have. Newtown, CT is no more or less random a location than where we are, and mental illness certainly no less prevalent. Although our television has remained firmly tuned to either children's programming or Christmas specials in the last few days, details have nonetheless leaked through to me.
I gave in yesterday, and wept at my computer for children who pleaded for Christmas while a stranger stalked them in halls that should have felt safe for them. As I tucked our Christmas elf into yet another hiding place last night, I wondered how many of the parents of the children killed that day had done the same, never dreaming that it would be the last time they would see Christmas joy on their babies' faces. My husband and I held each other last night in a rare moment of quiet, and I reflected on the six adults who would never go home to their loved ones again--the woman who wouldn't get her Christmas Eve marriage proposal, the mother who wouldn't get to see her own children grow, the psychologist and principal and brave, brave teachers who should have had the rest of their lives to pass on to others the selflessness they displayed that day.
Like other parents all across the country, I held my babies a little bit tighter last night, let them have that extra piece of Christmas candy, and shrugged off those clothes left lying on the floor.
It's amazing how little the small things matter when they're put into such large perspective. My kids didn't know what was going on, but I enjoyed the look of hitting a gold mine on their faces, as they shoveled gingerbread-shaped marshmallows into their mouths.
I wondered, too, about the remaining family of the shooter--about the father that grieves both for a son that he could not save, and for the horror that he left in his wake. For the brother that must wonder what he could have done for his sibling, and when. I don't know this family, or the dynamics of their relationship, but I know pointing the fingers of blame in their direction now helps nothing and no one.
My perspective is a little different here, as I'm the child of mental illness, you see. It was on a night similar to this one that I ran out into the living room of our home when I was a child, to find my father brandishing a shotgun and screaming of "those people" coming for him. I remember the alternating rage and panic that flitted across his face, and--only moments later--the calm conviction and earnestness in him as he detailed his delusion for us. I remember the biting cold of the car that I sat in after my mother hustled me out of the house, and the vivid red of the ribbon on the Christmas bell that hung around my neck.
So, too, I remember an older brother, similarly afflicted, and the sight of him slowly, methodically removing a healthy tooth from his mouth. I remember the look on his face as he did it--no pain, no fear, just a look of intense concentration that remains with me to this day, all because he was angry over something I can't even remember. The sight of that tooth calmly left lying in a pool of blood on a night-side table is forever etched in my mind.
Since the shooting, my social media feeds have been filled with those crying out for more gun control, less gun control, first blaming Asperger's for the violence, then decrying the link.
In times like these, we all want to pinpoint a reason for the horror, something or someone concrete to blame, so that we can feel as if something like this can be avoided in the future, if we just enact one more law, if we just know what to look for next time.
Mental illness comes in so many different forms--some born of trauma, some born of genetics, and we may never know what truly went on that day in Newtown. We'll certainly never understand it. Maybe someday minds greater than mine will come up with something to prevent this sort of horror, I don't know.
Until then, I'll focus on doing the only thing I do know how to do: raising my children to know that they are loved, every second of every day, and that there's nothing on this earth that they cannot come to me with. In so doing, I hope that they will do the same for their children, and maybe eventually we can all populate the earth with more of the types of people who shepherd children into closets before taking bullets for them, and less of the madmen themselves.