20 children dead. My heart shattered for all the victims and their families, but my mind has kept thrumming on the children. See, my children are in the same grade and age range as the children who died and even the mere thought of something like this happening to them is enough to have me on my knees, so I can only imagine the agony of their parents as they found out that their child was one of many who wouldn't be going home. I can't even fully imagine and I'll admit that I don't even want to. I'm an empathetic person by nature, so it doesn't take much for me to start picturing myself in other people's shoes, but this is one path that scares the ever-living shit out of me.
Sure enough, just as President Obama had said, I got home from work and hugged my babies tightly. We never think that it could happen to us, but the horrifying fact is that it could. It's not something we should really dwell on lest we find ourselves unable to even let our children out of our sight long enough to obtain their education, but still. It makes it hard. So very, very hard.
Details of Trayvon Martin's murder on Wikipedia complete with reference links), the theater shooting in Aurora earlier this year (Aurora Theater Shooting), the disappearance and horrific murder of Jessica Ridgeway (Jessica Ridgeway's body found), not to mention a slew of other kidnappings and murders that sprung up after Jessica's disappearance and murder, and now this? So many lives lost, especially of our precious babies and all during things that should be normal, everyday things that one shouldn't have to fear the appearance of some psycho armed with a gun and/or explosives.
What does anyone really do with this? It makes it more nerve-wracking to go to an early showing of a movie that has high national attention (20-year-old suspect in "Twilight: Breaking Dawn 2" shooting plot) or to even send our children to school. Even before what happened to Jessica, I couldn't ever fathom letting my children walk to school by themselves. Nuh uh. Not happening. Even before the Sandy Hook massacre, I was still paranoid when dropping them off at school.
Mind you, I NEVER drive off until I see them go in the door, but given where my car was when I first dropped them off, I could only see them go into the entry way and not fully through the door. So when I saw him do that, I gave him a stern talk about it. This isn't the first time he or Rain have tried to sneak off after I've dropped them off. Last year Aspen and Rain were going to an elementary school in Oklahoma and, same thing there: I wouldn't drive off until I saw them go into the building. Well, I about had to get into it with their teachers because one morning after I saw them go into the building before I drove off to head to work, I ended up getting a call from Rain's teacher who tried barking up my backside saying that I can't leave until my kids go into the building. She explained to me that both Rain and Aspen had decided to sneak off to play (which made me go !!!!!!!!!!!!!O.O!!!!!!!!!!!!!) but thankfully, they hadn't left the school grounds.
I then proceeded to tell her, coldly and matter-of-factly, that I NEVER drive off until I see them go into the building and that once they are in the building, they are THEIR responsibility and what the hell were they doing that they didn't notice two Kindergartners heading off AWAY from where they should have been going (the cafeteria was pretty much right inside from the main entry door).
Now, mind you, I know that there's only so many teachers and a crap-ton of kids to keep track of, but this was not the first nor the last time I had to butt heads with those people over matters that were their responsibility nor was that the first nor last instance where their actions (or the lack thereof) had caused me a heart attack because they'd not know where my kids were.
And, of course, I still had stern talks with Aspen and Rain about wandering off and not going where they were supposed to.
The long and short of it is that it is a great and heavy thing for many of us to entrust our children to the care of teachers and a principal and there are still times where, even as they do their best, unforeseen factors come into play. It might be inclement weather, a school bus accident, or a psycho with a gun comes into our schools and opens fire on our children and those who try to keep them safe.
When things like the Sandy Hook massacre happen, it's so easy to write off the perpetrator as someone who is supremely evil. I'll even admit that I had that frame of mind. Honestly, I haven't exactly switched from it. It's hard for me to, honestly. Even the thought of someone doing that to any of my children and I automatically see red and seethe. If something like this, Goddess forbid, were to happen to my children, I cannot promise that I wouldn't be totally overcome with hatred toward the person who did it.
However, my good friend Stephanie Fox, author of The Coexist Cafe blog, wrote a very good and thoughtful piece on how perhaps we, as a general population, jump too quick on the hate bandwagon without really taking the time to consider just what might be behind what makes that person snap. It has been proven that many occurrences like this can be linked back to mental illness or brain damage.
The Coexist Cafe: "Mass Murders and Mental Illness" by Stephanie Fox
She pointed me to her post when a discussion about this was going about on her Facebook and it reminded me of another instance where mental illness/brain damage could be linked to a murder/suicide.
See, Chris Benoit's father, Mike Benoit, had described his son as being a total family man who adored his wife and son. He described him as even being a very gentle, considerate man but towards the end, he'd begun deteriorating in a rather alarming way. He became overly obsessed with things of a religious nature. When police had come upon the murder scene, they'd reported to have even found Bibles all over the place and it was later found that in his last days, Benoit had become particularly obsessed with the prophet Elijah.
Read the full story -- Chris Benoit's Murder/Suicide: Was Brain Damage to Blame?
All in all, when we hear about such unspeakable tragedies, it is so easy to forget the humanity of the perpetrator. It really is, and I don't think any of us are exempt from it. But, perhaps for the sake of our own humanity, we should try harder and not give in so easily to the hate. It's perfectly logical, of course, to be angry. Perhaps it's even understandable that so many of us are relieved when people like the Sandy Hook Elementary shooter take their own lives. Yet, for not only our sake but also the sake of our future generations, we would do better to work through our feelings about such tragedies and still try to remember that there is a story we haven't heard about the people who do these evil things.
Perhaps it is truly a case, like Chris Benoit, that if they had been in their right mind they would have never done such things. I suppose the step that comes after such a difficult thought is one that's even more difficult: forgiveness. Not forgiveness because this person has necessarily done anything toward us, but forgiveness because of the heartbreak we experience for the real victims as well as the fear it causes at the thought that something similar could happen to our own children. Perhaps we must also find it in ourselves to forgive these people because otherwise we very well might find ourselves trapped in such fear.
Not everyone who commits a heinous crime such as these is defected by a mental illness, true. But at the very least, we should learn to withhold judgment until we know and even then, what good does our judgment do? It doesn't help any of us to heal and it does nothing in mourning and remembering those who have been taken.
So, take a moment and spend it in silence to remember not only the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre. Light a candle and spend a few moments to remember all the victims of violent crimes and tragedies. They should never be forgotten.