It has taken me a while to come to a place where I can write about last Friday’s school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. My first response was as it is for many news events—it is another horrible tragedy in a world where these things happen often. But the news became personal that night at dinner. Child Harbat was acting up, not eating her dinner or some ordinary and minor misbehavior, and I was tired and snapping at her to just finish that one vegetable before she’s sent to her room.
“Let it go, just tonight,” my wife said. “Some people didn’t get to have their kids come home.”
Wow. That hit so hard I didn’t say much for the rest of the night, the news of the day becoming to me a real thing that happened to real families. As a parent, I’m lucky that it didn’t happen at my kid’s school. I still get to hug my son and daughter, hear their voices, see them go about their lives and explore the world. I will never know why they are still here today while other children were taken away by a horrible brutal event and are never coming back home to their parents, not ever.
I think this event haunts me so deeply not just because I’m a parent and got a glimpse of the horror that awaits the families of those lost children. It’s also because the victims were so young and barely got a chance to really start their lives. I know what it is to have a child that age, know the sound of footsteps in the hall at night, the energized yells of play, the feel of a cheek against your own. It could’ve been my daughter, think I and all parents. It could have been my son.
This event is now morphing into a public forum on gun control, on school security, on mental health. This is the natural course of things, a human struggle to grasp meaning from black chaos. I have my own strong opinions on these things which will no doubt crash up against others’ opinions until everyone is yelling and we’ve forgotten what got us here. But I can’t do that, not now. To me, this horrible event shows me how close I am to disaster, how each day is a gift, how each moment to see my children again and to hold them tightly to my chest is no more than a matter of dumb luck.