And there you have it; the question I knew would eventually come out in conversation with my son as this weekend comes to a close. Don’t let the fact that he is 13 years old give you reason to think that he knows better. He doesn’t and neither do his peers or those older or younger than he. Children just like him went to school on Friday as if it were any other day. They packed their backpacks. They put on their coats. They waited at the bus stop. It was just a regular day. Or so we all thought.
My son is scared although he might never outwardly admit it. Let’s take note that our children are continually bombarded by news of shootings in schools, shopping malls and parking lots. Not over years or months but over the course of a few weeks. We are becoming so desensitized to these events that we are coming to expect them on a weekly basis. But, like the lottery, we wonder who will draw the unlucky ticket. Will it be a single person, a large group, a random target, a specific objective? Will it be my child?
Let us not forget the doomsday blockheads filling media time with a calendar etched into a rock telling our children that the world is coming to an end in a week’s time. It is a wonder our children sleep at night. Frankly, it is a wonder we do as well.
It seems to me that the most valuable lesson we can all learn from the loss of these precious souls is that there is no such thing as a regular day. Every day, every moment and every tick of the clock is different from the one before it. This is where my answer begins.
My dearest son,
The best answer I can give you is that, yes, I believe that you will be safe at school tomorrow. I believe that when I put you on the bus in the morning, I am sending you to a set of professionals who know you and your friends and come to work each day sworn not only to educate you but to protect you. I am confident that they would walk in front of a moving train to ensure your health and safety.
My heart and my head trusts that everyone from the school clerk, to your teachers, to your administrators to law enforcement and our firefighters are prepared to do everything in their power to make certain that you will grow old and see me to my very old age.
You can feel safe in knowing that I would never knowingly send you into the fray of danger. I will always do everything in my power to make sure that I will be vigilant of the world that surrounds you. I will keep up with whatever is trending regarding your safety and will take steps to guarantee your well being whenever possible.
With all of this being said, I believe you are also old enough to understand that although I wish I could control everything and anything that enters your world, I am only human and like you am fragile when facing the unknown. The answer I just gave you is the same answer the parents of the children we have lost believed and have since come to know the true meaning of that fragility.
But know that whatever joys or tragedies lie ahead, I am always just a heartbeat away; that even when I cannot be with you I am always with you holding your hand and stroking your forehead to ease your fears. My heart tells me that through their enormous grief, the parents of the children of Sandy Hook School believe the same.
I can also tell you that I am committed to doing everything in my power to keep you and your peers and those ahead of you and behind you safe at school and in our community. I pledge to be vigilant and work with the teams of people, who just like me, never want to see another news story like we have listened to this past week come over the airways again. I am enough of a realist to know that this is a very tall order that can only be accomplished when Moms and Dads just like me and your Dad work together to never accept that this is simply the world we live in. It is the least we could do to honor those families for their sacrifice.
Although we realize that sometimes evil enters in, we are well aware that every moment that our eyes are open is a moment that we can learn something new, reach out to someone in pain, fix something that is broken and keep that evil at bay even for only a moment. I am confident when I tell you that this bad man can no longer hurt anyone else. I can tell you that with all of the joy that life brings us; it also brings us pain and heartache. But for this moment, for this day, for this time that we share together we should take pause and make the most of it.
We will cross those bridges that lie ahead as we get there with our hearts and minds open. Have faith that tomorrow will be a new day and we will travel its path together. We will do it not only for ourselves but for those who came before us and for those who have been left behind.