Letter #49: Notes on a Tragedy

Dear America,

There is nothing that I am going to say here that won't be said better by professional writers, journalists, and poets. I am just a woman who works with children in a city far away from this horrible tragedy that is so hard to even imagine. Except that it's real.

But I've cried three times today. Three times because I keep picturing little children crouching in a corner wondering what they hearing. Three times because I am trying to imagine what it must have been like for those teachers, trying to keep children who they love, safe. Three times because I keep wondering what it could possibly be like to tell lines of scared children to keep their eyes closed as they evacuated their school; a place that they have always thought of as safe, but suddenly was a massive crime scene.

And I will continue to cry as I think about those families who lost today. As I imagine what it must be like for those brothers and sisters to go home without their sibling. For those parents who have to mourn their children. For those teachers who are probably wondering what they could have done differently. For the rest of that school that has to find a way to cope this senseless act. For that community that now has too many holes in their heart.

I'll admit that this is the first mass shooting in a long time that has moved me to tears. It's a horrible thing to say, but when we live in a country where it has come to feel like one happens every week, it's hard not to become desensitized.

I grew up in a world much different than the children of Sandy Hook. The doors to my schools were open all of the time. People came and went as they pleased. No one questioned anything. But then I was a senior when Columbine happened and our country started to change. The rest of my senior year of high school was peppered with bomb threats and evacuations. People scared that whatever happened there could happen anywhere.

I was a teacher when Virginia Tech happened. Fourth, fifth, and sixth grade. And I casually slipped over to the adjoining room to let the head of the school know about that tragedy. It was easy to hide the news from the children. I simply blocked internet usage for the remainder of the day until they could go home to parents. I may have answered a few questions in the following days, but then it was over and we moved on.

And then there was L.A. Fitness shooting that happened in my neighborhood. I heard the sirens. My brother was arriving for his workout when people were fleeing the building. People from my school district died. Girls I had met before, friends of friends, were shot. The gunman had gotten a library card from my library. I used to work in a card store just steps away from the scene. That mass shooting was, quite literally, in my backyard.

But so many that were in-between and after? I can barely remember. And that is a tragedy in itself. Those victims should never be forgotten. We should have never arrived at a point in our country where we don't even bother to read all the stories about the latest shooting.

I won't pretend to have the answers to make these tragedies go away. There are people far more educated in regards to mental health and weaponry that me who will battle this out. But chance are very little will change anytime soon. However, there is no reason I can't make my voice heard. We all need to make our voices heard. If now is not the time to talk about reform and change, then I don't know when the conversation ever has a chance of evolving.

I will write my congressman. I will sign petitions. I will stick to my own opinion that we need better gun control in this country. That we need better health care so those who are suffering from mental illness can have access to affordable, quality treatment. I will try to break the stigma of mental illness so that those suffering don't have to feel ashamed or weak.

I don't believe that people died today because God has been removed from school.  I don't think that anyone died today because God has a special plan. I don't think metal detectors would have stopped this madman from his rampage. I don't think that each one of these shootings were caused by the same type of person. I don't think there are simple fixes to these problems.

What I do think is that we need change. We need to stop sitting-by watching 24-hour news dissect these unspeakable actions. Because they should never happen again.

And tonight, while I'm having trouble falling asleep because my mind keeps wandering into the homes of Sandy Hook, I will cry a few more tears and feel blessed that those I love are safe.



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