Senseless and Silent.

I need to get these thoughts out of my head that have been swirling around since Friday afternoon and on to paper/screen.

snow trees

Friday morning, Larry and I drove down to New Jersey to attend his sister’s college graduation. Shortly before 1pm, his iPhone dinged. He has a distinctive alert tone for the AP Breaking News Alerts app, for which he gets push notifications.

“Who died?” I chuckled. We’ve joked many times in the past that 90% of these breaking news alerts are about so-and-so famous person is dead.

He got very quiet.

“What happened?” I said, glancing over to see the sober look on his face.

“Um… somewhere between 18 and 20 children in Connecticut,” he said quietly. “Someone shot up an elementary school.”

We had just crossed the Connecticut border. I switched off Pandora and turned on NPR as special coverage began.

We listened to the awful news unfold for most of the ride to New Jersey. There was a lot of either one of us beginning with a “can you even imagine” that trailed off into silence, met with a silent, shaking head in response.

#   #   #

At some point in the drive, I wondered aloud:

“I wonder if any of those children were adopted or conceived via ART.”

#   #   #

I was a junior in high school when Columbine happened. I distinctly remember sitting in my study hall period just a few days after it happened, cautiously eyeing my classmates, speculating of this group, who would take us out. I eyeballed at least two points of egress.

I knew I could safely get outside if I took the fire exit house right in our auditorium (where my study hall was held) and hide within the residential neighborhood just across the street. There were no windows from which someone could fire at us. If I took the regular exit to house left, down the hallway and out the doors to the bus loop, I’d have a much longer open distance to cover, but it would be through a parking lot so I could duck and hide behind cars.

But of course, depending on the weapon, a car body might not protect me.

I knew in a pinch, if I had to hide, I could run backstage left, climb the rickety staircase that led to the catwalks above the auditorium seating. Or I could lock myself in one of the two greenrooms. If there was little time, I could run and jump into the orchestra pit.

At 17, I devised a crisis escape plan for every room in my class schedule during my 40 minute study hall in the days after Columbine.

“Can you imagine,” I began again to Larry in the car, “trying to explain to your six-year old to always know two points of egress wherever they are, even if they’re unconventional like a window?”

Another silent head shake.

#   #   #

The National Rifle Association has deactivated their Facebook page as of Friday afternoon. They were promoting some kind of holiday giveaway at the time the news broke and as the hours went by, they quietly deactivated the page entirely, despite recently celebrating reaching 1.7 million followers on Facebook.

There are already asshats publicly discussing the need for more guns. Because clearly, what we need is more guns.

And yet, the largest financial investor of the largest gun conglomerate is backing out and selling their entire gun portfolio, including the brand that made the assault rifle used in Friday’s shooting. Even Walmart and Dick’s have put a temporary moratorium on the sale of that same rifle.

Sometime I wish the right to “bear arms” was more about tank tops and less about our ability to indiscriminately kill one another.

#   #   #

When I heard that the first funeral was being held yesterday, I immediately knew his family must be Jewish. I had read that the medical examiner had finished with the bodies of the children sometime on Sunday; the earliest that little boy could be buried was Monday, as is Jewish custom.

Parents should not have to sit shiva for their children.

#   #   #

My first instinct, upon hearing the news, was to do something. It’s the same impetus I feel in the wake of natural disasters: collect goods, funds, and if I can – help a community rebuild. I know I’m no good with a hammer but my checkbook is just as vital. I contribute. I donate. I send my dollars as a way to say, “I’m thinking of you and I want to help in the best way I can for your community right now.”

It makes sense in the wake of hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes and tsunami.

But how can dollars help in the wake of such a man-made disaster like this?

There is no amount of money that will bring back the dead.

#   #   #

It has been rainy and grey since Sunday morning. The rain pounded so loud on the roof last night it kept me up.

Despite my current Jewishness, I grew up with Christmas, so my body and heart instinctually get into the festive groove this time of year. I felt that way last week, as I dropped off a huge stack of homemade holiday cards at the post office. I could feel that joyous uptick with Christmas approaching.

It’s been cut off prematurely and the rain only seeks to dampen my mood further.

My heart aches to comprehend such senselessness.

#   #   #

There’s been a lot of talk about the shooter’s mother. About the disparity of access to mental health care in America. About second amendment “rights” versus “gun control.” About school security. About Asperger’s syndrome. About video games and briefcases and taking college courses at 16. About the demonization of children who are “different.”

I would like to hear stories about those six- and seven-year olds. Did they play with Barbies or GI Joes? Did they have imaginary friends? What did they want for Christmas or Hanukkah this year? Who did they look up to most in the world? Who was their favorite cartoon character?

I want to hear stories about the teachers and administrators. About the work they’ve done. About their lesson plans and craft projects and book report assignments.

I want their stories to live on in blessed memory, a light to outshine the dark, media-hyped infamy of the shooter.

I want to remember their names.

Not his.

#   #   #

I keep coming back to something I heard on a panel at the Massachusetts Women’s Conference last week. Charley Johnson, President of the Pay it Forward Foundation, talked about the work he does. He talked about how there at 7 billion people on this planet.

“Imagine what one-seventh of the world could do,” he said. “Imagine if just one billion people did something different today, a little more today, put some good out today more than they did yesterday. Imagine if just one billion people did this today.”

He paused.

“Imagine what tomorrow would look like.”

It seems trite, almost, in the wake of what just one person could do on Friday to make the world a massively more cynical, darker place.

And yet, this idea of doing better today than yesterday drives me forward. It keeps me going. And perhaps now, it’s an idea I cling to in desperation.

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  1. says

    “My heart aches to comprehend such senselessness.” <– yes, this.

    there is no comprehending it though, which makes it all the more horrific. it makes no sense, no matter how much pain someone was in.

    I've been unable to make room for little else in my head or heart, as well.
    beautiful post, keiko,

    • says

      I stalk the news for updates. Bad habit of the daughter of a photojournalist, I guess. And of course, the shooter has basically destroyed any evidence about WHY he would do such a thing. It’s maddening and all the more heart wrenching.

  2. says

    That final point, the power of a person to change the world for bad (as well as this hope that we all change the world for good) is an emotional one.

    It is hard to look at the pictures of the children even though, like you, my focus is on the people gone vs. the gunman.. They look like the parade of children who come through our house on play dates. They could have been friends with my kids. There was one boy who had a girl twin who survived. I think about that boy, Noah, a lot as well as his twin sister.

    • says

      As soon as I learned that the first boy buried was a twin – whose twin survived, no less; I thought of you and the twins. Now 5 days later, I’m still shaken and not quite settled yet. This is one of those global wounds that I think will take a very long time to heal. It may not have been as prolific as some other tragedies, be they man-made (9/11) or natural (Phuket tsunami) – but equally as devastating.

  3. says

    Thank you for writing about this, Keiko. I have been thinking about it nonstop since last Friday, and also formulating what my blog post will be, which I plan on writing tonight. I also haven’t been able to sleep since last Thursday- which is why I need to write about it tonight. I, like you, have been wondering if any of those kids were conceived through ART, adopted, Jewish, etc. Can’t write any more right now- saving it for my post….
    Hugs to you.

  4. says

    The first funeral held yesterday was, indeed, for Noah Pozner- a twin. Perhaps conceived through ART, being a twin? Jewish. It’s too close to home for me, having boy/ girl Jewish twins conceived through ART, 6 years old, in different classrooms at school. My son’s classroom is the closest door to the outside pair of doors at the kindergarten end of that corridor. When his sissy and I walked him into his class this morning, we found the door to be locked. There is a view window with safety, wired glass in it that I was able to knock on- so his teacher could see us and let us in. When we went in, and I asked quietly if that’s the new policy, Mr. B just looked at me over the tops of his glasses and nodded. My eyes immediately sprung with tears, and I thanked him. Welcome to the new reality.

    • says

      It’s just so, so fucked. My sister is a high school English teacher. She’s never had to lock her door before – ever. She did it instinctually Monday morning during her first period. Insane.

  5. says

    Beautiful. That’s kind of what I’ve been trying to get at in my last posts, I think … to offer a legacy of love. Because you’re right; money is useless. And doing good in the world may be the best way to honor these beautiful little lives.

  6. says

    Thank you for this wonderful post. Even thinking about the shooting now makes me tear up. I cannot even imagine the pain and anguish, and my heart breaks for those families.

    It’s interesting that you mention thinking about whether or not any of the children were conceived by ART, because that was one of my thoughts as well. In some ways, it doesn’t matter. These children’s deaths were all terrible tragedies, no matter what. But in another way, I can’t help but think – all those treatments, expense, heartbreak, hope that’s involved in seeking infertility treatment and conceiving a child that way – then the joy of welcoming that child, only to have this happen. There are no words.

  7. Nicole says

    Thank you for posting this Keiko. Having a 6 year old of my own, one who attends a school so similar to Sandy Hook Elementary, this tragedy strikes so very close to home for me. Talking about this tragedy with my daughter and discussing the importance of lockdown drills with her is one of the hardest conversations I have ever had. I cannot stop thinking of these children and the horrors they endured that morning. And how the few who escaped had the presence of mind to do what they did at the time. My husband tells me to stop watching/reading the news coverage, but like you, I want to honor the children by knowing about them – their loves, their families, their last moments on earth.

  8. Gailcanoe says

    I also had the thought when I first heard the news and wondered how many of the children were adopted or products of fertility treatments. Not that any child’s death is worse or better, but as a women without children who desperately wants them, I had that thought, too. So sad.

    Yesterday, I posted the following to Facebook and wanted to share it here. It helped shed some light on this recent school shooting and put things in perspective for me. I wrote it, but I put it in quotes to separate it from my comments on your post.

    “I’ve been struggling with what I perceived to be a rise in school shootings in the U.S. based on the way the media has been covering them in the last few years, so I decided to do some research. I know that Wikipedia is not the best source for research, but I found a long list of school shootings dating back to 1764 there. For those that don’t know their U.S. history, let me shed some light on this for you: 1764 was before violent video games, movies, and other “cultural violence” items that are getting wrongly blamed as the cause for the school shootings. 1764 also during a time when prayer was still a part of schools, as others are falsely accusing that taking prayer out of schools is the cause for the school shootings. While guns have changed significantly over time, the first school shooting in 1764 happened before the Bill of Rights and the 2nd Amendment was passed in 1791, so it didn’t have anything to do with that. As for the claim of mental illness, I am not an expert, so I won’t comment on that.

    What is the REAL cause of school shootings? I have no idea and am as saddened and frustrated as anyone else. As we chose to move forward as a nation, we need to look back at the 144+ cases on this list and have some real frank and honest conversations among our citizens as to what we want for the future of the students and educators in this country. Then, we need to take action to make sure that this list is never added to again.”

  9. says

    I was traveling as the news unfolded, too. I got on a plane in one reality and landed into another.

    I live (and grew up in) the same school district as Columbine. Newtown will need our support for a very long time.