There are no words to describe what I, what the world, felt Friday as we heard the news of the massacre. I use the word massacre because that's exactly what it was. The mass killing of innocent lives. Why? Why was there this mass killing? At first, I was speechless. Now, not so much.
Although this tragedy will likely never have a direct devastating impact on my life, I will never forget it. I was sitting at the lunch table with my 3rd grade coworkers and someone told me the devastating news. What? What? I remember that was all I could say. I could literally feel my heart hurting. Aching. Of course, all I could think of was my baby. I yearned to hold him. All I wanted to do was snuggle him and kiss him and keep him safe. People always say you will never know how much your parents love you... how much they worry about you... how they want the very best for you...until you have your own. And it's so very, very true.
When I was finally reunited with Huddy Buddy that afternoon, we were in a hurry. Rusty was off work and we were in a rush to see Santa at Bass Pro Shop before the crowd arrived. Before this day, I was overjoyed with the thought of seeing my son sitting on Santa's lap for the very first time. Although he would have no clue what was going on, it was an important day for me. One of the "must dos" with your child at Christmastime. But the 30 minute drive there all I could think of were the presents that we had already purchased and couldn't wait to set out as Santa on Christmas morning. And the overwhelming sadness thinking of the Mommies and Daddies that also had presents for their beautiful first graders... presents that would never be opened. Never be played with. The smiles on Christmas morning that would never be seen. Just typing that brings tears to my eyes.
The news of this tragedy is unique to me because of the different emotions I have. Emotions as a new mother, but also emotions as a teacher.
You could never, ever, understand the role of a teacher unless you have been one yourself. Teachers play many roles: facilitator, instructor, mother/father, nurse, therapist, friend, referee, disciplinarian, cheerleader, role model, PROTECTOR - physically, socially, and emotionally.
Parents entrust me with their children daily. From the hours of 8-3, I play these roles and more. My tones and facial expressions change throughout the day. Some students require quiet encouragement while others need some tough love. The coolest thing is, good teachers know what their students need. And it makes me happy when I know I have provided them with what they needed.
I came across a program tonight that was somewhat of a memorial service for the Newtown community. I missed most of it, but managed to catch the President reading a list of the names of the students that lost their lives. What made it so personal was that he only read their first names. Just like I would call my students by name. There were 20 children killed. 12 girls. 8 boys. I have 19 kids this year - 12 girls, 7 boys. This made it very real for me. These poor babies, at school, likely doing Christmas crafts - just like we were doing Friday.
It makes my kids laugh how well I know them. How I can predict when they are about to get in trouble. How I can tell who is talking behind me while we are walking down the hall because I know the individual sound of all 19 kids - their laugh, their huffs and puffs, the tone of their voice, even how they cry. Most of them snicker when I call someone's name as we walk down the hall without ever turning around. I must admit, it makes me smirk, too (most of the time). From 8-3 - and many times even after that - those are my babies. I know them well, and they all have a piece of my heart.
I received a prerecorded message on my cell phone today. A SchoolCast, we call it. I recognized the number, and I had a feeling I would be receiving a few words from the school board regarding the shooting Friday. The message was our Superintendent letting everyone know that a police officer would be assigned to every elementary, middle, and high school in our system- all 52 of them - during school hours until the Christmas break. Although I like the idea of heightened security, it just added to the realness. It could have been our school. It could have been my babies. It could have been me.
I can't imagine what the day will be like when the rest of the Sandy Hook Elementary students and faculty return to school. 20 kids, 2 teachers, a psychologist, and the principal - all part of the Sandy Hook family - faces and voices that once filled the halls - gone forever. The place where the last sounds many of the survivors heard were gunshots, screams, sirens...their lives will be forever changed.
So tomorrow morning, I will kiss my husband and baby goodbye. I will drive my 30 minute commute to work. I will walk to my room, plug up my Christmas tree, and catch up with my coworkers about their weekend. I will greet my students with a smile. I will think of those 20 sweet angels. I will think of their parents, that instead of sending their children off to school, are making funeral arrangements. I will live cautiously, but not in fear. I will be thankful for another day on Earth. I will praise the Lord for all of his blessings and pray for comfort for those in unimaginable pain.
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9