Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Like dropping acid, but without the fun

So for the last two days, I've been having flashbacks. Flash-way-backs to eight years ago when I was home with my newborn baby - my first baby. I was exhausted, hopped up on haywire hormones, having trouble breastfeeding, alone; and then it got worse. In Colorado, two teenagers walked into their high school in Columbine, and started shooting their classmates.

The news coverage went on and on. It was on every channel, all day long. I tried to turn it off, but I was drawn to it. I was horrified and mesmerized. I cried. I sobbed. I wondered what kind of a world I had brought my new son into. I held him close to me and we cried together. His crying was more related to wet diapers and hungry tummies, and mine was overwhelming grief. I grieved for those kids, but even more, I grieved for our world and what it had come to.

And now here we are. Eight years later, I have an eight year old boy and a three year old girl. And a student walked into his classrooms at Virginia Tech yesterday and started shooting his classmates. It is deja vu, an acid flashback, a recurring nightmare. Luckily, work kept me from watching the coverage all day yesterday, but the news feeds kept me well-informed. I have no more tears. I am astounded at the capacity for evil in this world. I just. don't. understand. Why? God, why? It is heart-wrenching to watch the students and families. I want to hug them and cry with them and somehow tell them it will be okay. But it's not. It's not okay that this young man had no other way to show his frustration, distaste, anger, whatever except by shooting people. And himself.

Events like this remind me of the dangers in this world. Dangers which I am normally able to pretend to ignore. If I couldn't, I'm not sure I would have the courage to live my life, or the strength to allow my children to leave the house. I hate that my children will never be safe anywhere they go. I hate that the world has become a place in which this kind of horror exists. We live in a nice neighborhood in a nice, normal, small Mid-Western town. But it's not enough. Something could happen. And it doesn't have to be at the hands of terrorists who fly planes into buildings. Or even at the hands of a troubled young loner at a college campus.

When I was in high school, my younger brothers played with the boys who lived across the street. We also lived in a nice small Mid-Western town. One summer day, while I was their babysitter, they planned to go over and play video games with Kenny and Jonathan. But our uncle surprised us and stopped by to take us for ice cream instead. When we got home, police sirens and fire trucks followed us. We had just pulled into the driveway when they pulled up across the street at Kenny and Jonathan's house. Other boys had been over playing video games and apparently there had been an argument. Kenny had gone to get his dad's shotgun to scare one of the boys, not knowing it was loaded. He accidentally shot the boy in the face. He died. He was sitting in an easy chair when it happened and the family put the chair out for the trash the next day. It sat there for two days until the trash picked it up. I looked at that blood-stained chair and cried. It could have been one of my brothers.

Something could happen to my kids. Anywhere. I live in terror that something awful will happen to them and I will not be able to save them or go on without them. I want to go back to pretending it will be okay. But I don't think I'll be able to for a while. There are new images burned into my memory. They sit along side others: what happened across the street in 1988, Jonesboro, Columbine, Oklahoma City, 9/11; and countless others, images gathered from stories about horrific crimes committed against children.

My flashbacks go on. Eventually, they will ease. Until then, I pretend I'm not afraid every time my children leave my sight. I pretend. And I lie. I do have more tears.

1 comment:

Brian said...

Personally, I believe the most horrific event that you described above is the blood-stained easychair on the curb for trash pickup. Your neighbors exemplified nearly 20 years ago what has become commonplace today ... the lack of consideration for our fellow wo|man. Where was the attempt to 'clean' or 'conceal' the painful reminder of 'their' lack of responsibility. How about scheduling a private bulk garbage pickup to spare everyone ... including themselves ... the painful reminder of what was lost? No ... because many find themselves too busy to take responsibility for their actions much less teach responsibility to those around us: to the young and impressionable as well as to the old and set in their ways.

The opposite reaction to events like those at VAT can be equally horrific. Beware of those core tendencies in all of us to blame someone else; to create an over-protective, over-bearing, automaton, nanny-state. The world has changed ... in many ways, it has 'moved on'. Teach your children. Protect your children. Love your children. But do not hide them from reality. Teach them their responsibility to themselves, to their family, and to the future of this world we live in.