As a teacher and a mother, I find what happened in Connecticut just so overwhelmingly sad. It's the Christmas season, and Christmas is so wonderful with small children in the house, and it just makes it that much more poignant.
In between finals, I talked with my students, barely able to keep my tears back, and during finals, while they were diligently bent over their desks, I thought through the lock down drills, rehearsing them in my mind - how would I keep twenty-one 15 and 16 year old kids safe if the unthinkable happened?
My students seemed mostly angered by the fact that the victims were such small keiki, but they were consumed with their final exams, and I don't think it sank in much.
My own daughter had questions when we were in the car. She pointed out our school doesn't have closets, and two walls in most classrooms are lined with windows. She wasn't shaky or distressed, but she pointed out that the school would be hard to lock down for real. I think she's been thinking about it a bit, in any case, because most of the area schools were locked down for several days due to two inmates who escaped earlier in the week.
I find if awful that she thinks about these things - that we live in a world where it would be so real, that we practice for situations like this as we do for fires. But on the other hand, the fact that she is so calm about it maybe points to it not being real, but rather a scary story.
Her calmness in the face of things that would have me shaking when I was her age is boundless. For example, her friend came to school crying because her parents were thinking of breaking up. My daughter comforted her, but she said (to me, later), "It's not that bad - is it? Half the kids in school only have one parent at home!"
I asked her to consider how she would feel if I said I was leaving home. She just looked at me in utter incredulity, "You?! You would never leave us." I persisted with the "what ifs", because I wanted her to feel some empathy for her friend - but she said she couldn't even imagine it, because it was ridiculous to even consider. So I guess that there is some distance between the possibility of violence of school and the possibility that it would be real. If that makes sense. You can think about the contingencies, but not the for real reality.
Even a day later, I am having a hard time with what happened. Children are so precious; life is precious. To hear of it being so disregarded, to think of the pain of those parents and families, is just so devastating. I am going to offer a Novena for those families, for those precious little lives, and cling to my belief that prayer helps, that it makes a difference, that it is a candle of love against the dark.