The morning after the Sandy Hook tragedy found our family packing up our car and heading south from Massachusetts.
We were headed for what should have been a joyous occasion: My father and his partner of 35 years were holding a Wedding Ceremony at their Manhattan apartment. In all that time, they’d never felt a need to make their union “official”. But with my father’s rapidly declining health, it now seemed long overdue.
Our home base for the weekend was Danbury CT, next door to Newtown and a point from which both of my parents were equally distant. I’d spent my childhood years aged 4 to 9 in Ridgefield — just two towns over — and my mother had been active in the Newtown Kennel Club.
I remember that part of in my life as sleepy and idyllic. It was the sixties. Our parents gave little thought to letting us wander the neighborhood unsupervised. Kids waited at the bus stop without adults and walked home from there alone.
Parents never thought of school as anything but a safe haven for learning. As teachers themselves, my parents biggest challenge was coming up with the next day’s lesson plan.
As we drove toward Hartford, a billboard loomed over us offering it’s condolences: “Our hearts and thoughts are with the families of Sandy Hook Elementary School”.
Once settled into our hotel room we headed over to Strabuck’s for a coffee. Outside, the store window displayed a handwritten poster: “RIP Lauren & All The Sandy Hook Angels”. Messages written there indicated a beloved Starbucks employee had been lost.
Leaving a comment, I couldn’t hold back tears.
I went inside and sat next to my six year old son, holding him tightly as he munched his bagel.My son understood Fridays events only to the extent that a six year old can. And he didn’t want to talk about it.
For the rest of the weekend, I couldn’t shake that feeling of sadness. I couldn’t get the image out of my head of gifts under a Christmas tree that will never be opened.
I found my self wondering if any of the children had been “onlys” like my own. What if older parents like us struggled to create a family, only to lose their child senselessly?
Then I realized that individual circumstances did’t matter. There is nothing worse than losing a child.
Back home on Monday, an emergency meeting was held at the elementary school in our tiny home town. Parents bombarded the school principal, pyschologist, and police and fire department officials with questions about school safety.
Some of the answers were reassuring, some weren’t.
Most of it came down to two inescapable facts:
First, we are a public school system dependent on public funding. Many of the safety measures suggested are simply not affordable.
Second, anyone hell-bent on breaching security will find a way. No amount of prevention can guarantee that something like this won’t happen again.
Armed with that knowledge, I thought about my father and his partner. Their bond to each other grew in significance once they sensed the end was near.
Both events strengthened my commitment to cherish every moment with my child and loved ones. My heart goes out to the families of Sandy Hook. Their pain is beyond comprehension.