It’s 5:15 on Saturday morning, and I know there’s not a chance in hell I’ll fall back asleep. I throw on my robe and make my way to my keyboard and wait for the blinking cursor to arrive, that pulsing strobe I know will mock me as I struggle for words.
For once, I don’t even know where to begin.
This won’t be a post about autism, although I will remind everyone reading this that whether or not Adam Lanza had Asperger’s or not, autism did not incite him to his murderous rampage. Mental illness did. The fact that he may have been on the spectrum is no more important than the color of his eyes, or the fact that he was male, or white. Autism, in all its many forms, is not a mental illness.
Hopefully, I am preaching to the choir.
Like many people I try to make some sense of this tragedy by comparing it to others in the past, and by seeing it through the lens of many different roles, specifically those of child, parent and teacher. As I weeded my way through various media commentary on Friday afternoon I couldn’t help but think of Columbine. I can remember my reactions to the event; disbelief, horror, and eventually just a deep sadness which remained for the children, parents, and school staff who endured such terror.
When Columbine occurred I was not yet a mother, and could only imagine the devastation that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold wreaked on that terrible day. Now I am a mother, one whose youngest child turns six in a few short weeks, just like many of those lost to us forever.
Trust me, like many of you, the “what- ifs” running around my head regarding my children are without doubt my early morning wake-up culprits, and I don’t imagine they’re going anywhere very soon.
As I sit here in the wee hours of the morn I find I can’t stop thinking about those kids, yet I can’t write about them either. Perhaps it’s too close, too soon, but I can see them through the lenses of both mother and teacher, and it’s just too much. I am so, so sorry for their parents, grandparents, and siblings.
I am so sorry for that entire community, who will be permanently marked by this loss, who can never fully recover from such a tragedy. I am even deeply sorry for those children who survived, because they are not only old enough to remember the horrific events of this infamous day, they are also old enough to understand what happened. Their innocence has been robbed. Their childhoods have been stolen.
And yet, that’s nothing compared to all of those little lives lost.
No, as I sit here struggling with what to say that hasn’t already been said I know I’ll focus on the teachers, because although I’m no longer “practicing”, I’ll always be an educator. I hope I would have acquitted myself with the smarts and grace of the teachers and staff of Sandy Hook Elementary, but I don’t think any of us can ever know how we’ll behave in a situation where the world has been turned upside down, where any semblance of sanity no longer exists.
I do know that the teachers and administrators who perished on Friday were the absolute heart of education. Each one demonstrated undeniable heroism, from the teacher who shielded her students with her own body, to the teacher who told her students she loved them in case those were the last words they ever heard, to the no-nonsense principal and school psychologist who rushed a madman with a gun.
I will be so bold as to say perhaps they wouldn’t even see themselves that way, because to many of us, their actions were just part of the job, a sacred trust. It’s one in which these days we are constantly called upon to protect the hearts and minds of our charges, thankfully in a setting usually not rife with violence.
On Friday, December 14th, that sacred trust was put into the extreme for six staff members who honored that covenant: Rachel Davino, Dawn Hocksprung, Anne Marie Murphy, Lauren Russeau, Mary Sherlach, and Victoria Soto. They were selfless. They willingly made the ultimate sacrifice.
They were heroes.
From me and my family, to their families and those who loved them, we send our prayers, and our love.
And one last thought for those who have fallen.