Confusion on the Ground

I want words to tell you what happened today, but I am numb. Not like the fat-lipped feeling I had after the dentist injected Novocaine into my mouth today. Numb like the white noise of a waterfall crashing around me. I can hear nothing else, feel nothing else, but even as I reach inward for my own thoughts, I find that they, too, are beyond my reach. My whole head is filled with sound, but it is meaningless. My heart could burst with sadness at the slightest touch, but anger and accusations bury it beyond reach.

This morning I opened the door to a cold, rainy day and sent my son alone into the world.

My husband sat down at the table, opened his laptop, and hungrily dipped his spoon into a bowl brimming with Honey Nut Cheerios and milk. I faced the opposite direction at the counter, putting tooth paste onto tooth brushes.

We were greeted by an all-too-familiar scene. Their bodies were scattered at our feet in varying stages of distress. It was too late for the one nearest me.

The sudden intake of breath. The spoon stopped halfway to his mouth. “Well, it’s happened again.” Without turning around, I already knew they were dead.

Two or three still moved, and so I clutched at them, found they reacted to my touch, and gathered them to safety.

Where was it this time? I hardly dared ask. 

Two more met my searching eyes, but though they struggled to move, I could do nothing for them. Their wounds were too great.

Las Vegas, on the Strip

Let me get you somewhere warm. You went through a lot last night.

How many? Again, I didn’t even want to know.

Here, you will like this spot. There’s good food here, too. I’m sorry about your buddies I couldn’t save.

Not wanting to alarm our children, my husband kept his answer vague: Half a hundred.

Well, I couldn’t save all of you, but I made a difference to you three, I said, and smiled at my morning prizes: three earthworms now living happily in my houseplants.

My fingers clenched around the child-size toothbrush. My sore tooth cried for mercy as I clenched my jaw. How could someone do this?

I am finally awakening to a sense of my duty as a mother. I sent my son out the door this morning with more than rain boots, a coat, and his lunch. I sent him off with a simple, but mighty, prayer offered for his safety and for his eyes to be open to the needs of others around him. He came home safely and with a happy report of having run to a classmate who had fallen, ready to help even though the child had regained his feet without assistance.

But this feeling of hopelessness that settled on me as I cared for my infant son and wondered how many of my children would survive first grade (we are coming up on five years since Sandy Hook); that feeling need not be the final resting place of my bright hopes for my children. I trust in God to give me eyes to see and ears to hear and the will to act when my senses and reasoning and spirit have reached an agreement. That is why I still pray.

But unlike the brooding, confused, and pointless reactions I’ve had over the past 18 years (half my life now) since mass shootings became the new overnight celebrity machine, this time I’m going to do something. I cannot stop the rain from falling, but I can try to check evil at the door.


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