It is impossible not to see myself in the tragedy. I remember clearly the day of the Columbine shootings. I learned of it while I was on the treadmill at the gym after school. Though I hate to run, I stayed on the machine an extra 20 minutes, transfixed, watching the scene unfold on the overhead TV. I rushed home to sit on the couch and stare at the news. I didn't grade papers. I didn't plan lessons. I could not think, unable to comprehend what had happened. I saw myself, a teacher, in that tragedy, and I grieved. What if that happened at my school? What if a gunman came into my classroom? What if?
Today started according to plan. I put the kids on the bus. I cleaned my office, which was in desperate need of a paper sweep and swiffer dust. I met my colleagues in a Google Hangout where we outlined a book. I created a budget for a grant application. And then, just as I was turning to the proposal narrative, I clicked the Facebook tab. One friend had commented about the school shooting. Just below that post another friend said she had cried as she read the story. No one else had commented. So I googled it - and I was done for the day.
My work files hung open on my computer as I took in the story, watched lived coverage, and eventually turned on the TV. As the story unfolded, it hit closer to home. Connecticut. Small, suburban town. Perceptively safe community. Kindergarten class.
It was not my grief to feel, but it was impossible not to see myself, a parent, in it. I have two children in the same kindergarten class. What if that had been my town? What if I couldn't find them at the firehouse? What if...
It was not my grief to feel, but it was impossible not to feel it.
There is so much I could say about the media's coverage of this event. A young man was accused publicly when he had nothing to do with the event. The story changed significantly from hour to hour. Reporters raced to file "facts" yet police refused to confirm. So the news teams speculated...who, what, when, and even where. And we watched. I watched. Unable to comprehend, and swimming in "what if."
Perhaps we can learn something, something more than school security or gun control, by examining the coverage of the aftermath. Perhaps in that mess lies the real problem. Perhaps change begins there.
It is not our grief to feel, but we feel it.
NJ Strong, along with other Sandy relief teams, has opened their hearts to Connecticut. If you would like to donate, please follow this link.