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October 5, 2011

My kids’ school was on lockdown today. Lockdown.

All perimeter doors, locked. All classroom doors, locked.

Why? There’s a very unhappy man on the loose and he has a gun. Maybe more than one.

He’s shot somewhere between 9 and 13 people today – reports vary. Three have already died. One was just a woman on her way to work – he shot her when she woulddn’t give him her car.

She was shot right outside of our doctor’s office. In front of the building where one of my friends was arriving for work. Just a couple of miles from where my parents live.

Right in my backyard.

I took comfort in the fact that both of my kids were in interior classrooms. Not only was there a locked classroom door, but also a locked exterior door, between them and the big ugly world.

When I finally saw my oldest – I tried to hug him, to hold him tight. I got the protest and squirm “Mom! Too tight!”

He doesn’t understand, and I can’t tell him.

There’s no way to soften this story. There’s no way to paint a less horrifying picture of what’s happened in our community today. There is no PG version of a mass shooting.

Recently, taking advantage of the local fire department’s visit to our preschool, we held a family fire drill. Our youngest thought it was great fun to crawl from his room in his jammies and out the front door. They sat at the end of the driveway at our meeting spot and we had a little recap. As we explained to them that, once out of the house, they are never, ever to go back inside until an adult tells them it’s ok to do so, I saw the wheels turning in Scooby’s mind.

And then it hit him. I actually saw it happen like a physical blow. He realized exactly what that means…that if he’s the only one of the family out there in the driveway and the house is on fire, he is never, ever to go back inside.

I felt about as horrified as he did, as he realized the magnitude of that rule. What if…

Kids don’t live by “what if…” Adults do.

His brother was still enjoying the novelty of being outside in his pajamas, dancing around on the lawn. Beside him, his older brother began to cry.

“You mean…?” His expression said it all.

Agonized, we tried to soften the terrifying thoughts that were going through his head, back-pedaling about the likelihood of such an event. It took a while for him to stop crying.

I think I kept it up longer than he did, at least on the inside. I didn’t want to be the one to cast that shadow of doubt into his sunshiney world, but God forbid I be too chicken to scare him, and the worst did happen, and he did go back inside. God forbid.

But today, today they will remain blissfully aware of the events of today. There is no value, no point in trying to share the reason I’m wanting to hold on to them so tight.

I am on a tightrope of emotions, barely maintaining a balance of order, swaying precariously from side to side and I will keep all of today’s “what ifs…” to myself.


One Comment leave one →
  1. Bethany Hall Fitelson permalink
    October 5, 2011 4:35 pm

    I’ve been following the news since I heard, and every time it mentions the location I just think “too close.” Too many people I know live and work in Sunnyvale or Cupertino and it’s just terrifying. You aptly describe the emotions of planning ahead for the what ifs, but also not wanting to drown in them. Recently we set up our wills with all the details of who gets the baby if we both die, and who gets her if THAT person dies, etc. etc. It feels great to be prepared for the unthinkable, but also too emotionally draining to sit in that place of what if for too long.

    Thanks for sharing your heart so openly!

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