“While nothing can take the place of a lost child or loved one, all of us can extend a hand to those in need – to remind them that we are there for them; that we are praying for them; and that the love they felt for those they lost endures not just in their own memories, but also in their community, and their country.
“Every parent in America has a heart heavy with hurt. We grieve for the families of those we lost. And we keep in our prayers the parents of those who survived. Because as blessed as they are to have their children home, they know that their child’s innocence has been torn away far too early.
“Any of these neighborhoods could be our own. So we have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this. Regardless of the politics.” – Barack Obama in response to the tragedy in Newton, Connecticut
In April of 1999, I was a senior in high school. I went to Crystal Lake South. It is a normal suburban high school. We had modern amenities. Air conditioning, a few gymnasiums, internet access, modern sports fields and televisions in every classroom and through out the campus. These TVs had cable access and we watched them occasionally. Well, at lunch we all watched them. The teachers, the students, the principal, the detective. I was in Spanish class. Es verdad.
Señor Svendson turned the TV on, just in time to see a kid that was my age, throw himself out of a broken window with one leg covered in blood, and another leg that actually worked. He crawled on his stomach, propelling him with one leg, into the arms of the SWAT team. The image is the first I knew of Columbine and it did not take me long to realize the gravity of the situation. We stopped our lesson and simply watched. We saw hundreds of scared teenagers, some covered in blood and some covered in a body bag. This is an event that stays with you.
It wasn’t my first brush with traumatizing death. I witnessed a man commit suicide when I was 10. Seven students riding a bus that my dad was in charge of, died after the bus was hit by a train when I was 14. A couple of years later, I watched a man commit suicide on live TV after the infamous North Hollywood shootout. I have seen tragedy. In person and through the media. It would not be nearly the last time, unfortunately. And my heart has been heavy for all them. Some more than others, but heavy, nonetheless.
What happened yesterday made my heart the heaviest. All events were tragic. Columbine, the bus accident, September 11th, Space Shuttle Columbia, the 2004 tsunami (that happened on my birthday), Katrina, Virginia Tech, Batman Shootings, DC Sniper, etc…were tragic. My heart sank, and my heart sank deep. But when my Indy Star notification went off on my smart phone and I read the words, “27 killed in CT Elementary School Shooting including Children,” a severe wave of dread and a baseball sized lump in my throat formed.
I was working in my home office. I was designing a poster and listening to “Waddle and Silvy” on my computer. I immediately lost focus and began to think about the awful scene that was unfolding. Kid upon, poor defenseless kid. What the fuck!? How? Why? What the fuck!
This struck me hard. I am a father now. I have a four year old girl, and a two year old boy. They are as precious as can be, but as any father, as any human, they can test my patience. And they were yesterday. I was working at home and watching them. During breakfast, the girl decided that she wanted to sit where the boy was. The boy wasn’t a big fan of that and does what any two year old boy would do, he screamed like a four year old girl. I lost my patience and raised my voice. To calm myself down, I retreated to my office and let them be.
Shortly there after, I received the notification on my smart phone. With the remorse and dread, I immediately felt guilty about my latest interaction with my children. I’m very good about letting my family know that I love them before any of us leave. I want my last words to my insanely beautiful wife and my crazy, awesome kids to be “I love you.” I hope to “God” that everyone affected by the Newton Massacre had the opportunity to let their child or loved one know that they loved each other. I immediately went back out to the living room and hugged and kissed the boy and the girl. I told them I loved them.
My Facebook and Twitter feed immediately started to load with peoples’ reactions to the event. My reaction as to link a newspaper article. Other reactions included prays, anger, sympathy, gun control, sympathy to gun control, anger at democrats, anger at republicans, anger. How does this become a political issue? Why is that someone’s reaction? Anger and disgust and confusion are normal reactions to the events. Politicizing the issue is abnormal. This has nothing to do with gun control or gun tolerance.
More guns is not the answer. Less guns is not the answer. Gun laws are not the answer. No Gun laws are not the answer. This is a case of mental health and understanding mental health issues. Aside from natural disasters and accidents, most tragedies, massacres, terrorist attacks, etc., start with the mental health of the suspects. Their chemistry is obviously off. What we perceive as “normal” may not be perceived by the sick “individual.” So why did this god forsaken massacre happen? It wasn’t guns. Guns don’t kill people, remember? It was mental health.
So, what do we do? What can we do? Morgan Freeman would suggest we stop media from being the whore that it is. That isn’t likely or practical. I think we stop and assess everyone we know. We stop and start to understand what makes people tick and see if the ticks are consistent with healthy behavior. No, I don’t suggest a witch hunt. Just knowledge. Let’s understand why these things happen before we pass judgement or prematurely assess the situation.
As a father, I having nothing but a broken heart to offer the parents of the lost children of Newton. As a teenager in the 90s, I had nothing to offer, but a broken heart to the parents of the children lost in Columbine. As an American, I have nothing to offer, but a broken heart to those families of the thousands of people lost in the September 11th attacks. Let’s not make this a political issue. This is a human issue. We need to deal with this the way humans do, with grief, sorrow, anger and acceptance. Please hug your children and families tonight. I love you.
Please to enjoy.