It was supposed to be a good day. I had just finished a blog piece and was scoping online for some final references. Then I saw it. It was a plea in a Facebook post by my friend Kergan asking when we would at last start addressing gun violence in this country. His post was full of frustration and call-to-action, as any dad facing an insurmountable crisis might be.
The between the lines message was clear. “Oh no,” I thought to myself, “Something has happened.”
I went immediately to my news feed, and sure enough, the horror in Newtown, Connecticut was unfolding. I found myself immersed in it, and I have been ever since, in a way unlike anything since 9/11.
Through all the days of information and gratuitous media, like reporters and anchors commenting on their own bravery in covering the story, there still seemed to be one piece missing that I was obsessed in seeing. I finally saw it today as the pictures of the victims of the shooting were released.
In part, my obsession was to connect that these were real people, real educators and real children to whom this had happened. It was also to see what I knew would be there… the look of innocence, wonder and joy of living in the eyes of those kids.
I needed to look and see exactly what had been taken from their poor families, and from us as a world community.
It made the event hit even more deeply home for me than it had before. This was an act of terrorism. Terrorism and its parallel, hate crimes, are not just physical. They are emotionally and spiritually effective meant to harm and damage a collective psyche.
In the case of 9/11, it was the American psyche and way of life as the intended Target—meant to be brought to its knees and to be wrapped in fear and angst. In this case, it was the look that I sought to see in the children’s eyes—it was an attack on the deep love that is in the hearts of all parents and of all people who care about the young and their promise of life. It was designed to snuff out our collective purity and innocence.
Did Adam Lanza intend for it to be that way? Maybe, maybe not. We will probably find out that his situation was what Liza Long describes in her article “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother”, in which she throws the light on our country’s inability to cope with mental health issues in troubled teens. What Adam Lanza did created was terror however, no matter what the intention—and the effects are the same.
As a dad, this takes me right to my core. From the first day I had my eldest son, I became deeply aware that I was responsible for his complete welfare. It was a joyful undertaking, but profound in its detail and breadth. It was knowing what Love is, in a way that before unthinkable.
From that parental vantage point, when it comes to sending your child off to school, you reach an internal crisis point. When my sons started going to school, I was then out of range to fulfill my life’s duty. I cannot control what happens to them.
I trust their school, teachers, security systems. Newtown had the best of all of those. The fact is that 20 sets of parents got the call I most fear, and that without warning the precious looks, kisses, hugs, innocent conversations and happiness that are my heart and soul treasures can abruptly end and be removed, forever.
This event was terrorism because so many of us feel the searing pain of the poor families who are facing the reality of their loss. I wish to my soul that I could spare them the pain they feel, I wish it more than any other thing this Christmas, and take little solace in the fact that I get to hug my boys and take them in my arms still.
I see this reaction too in the faces, communications and expressions of my friends, many of them gay parents. It is ironic from the gay family perspective that as the horror was taking place in Newtown, and cutting to the heart of parenting with its worst terror, elsewhere in the world, the Pope was lodging an attack against gay families on the very same day. In his World Peace address, the Pope listed our families as being threats to peace.
Adam Lanza made clear what “threat to peace” really looks like.
The fact is, the collective horror demonstrates that all families breathe, bleed and cry. The fact that they, and we do, is what defines family. At times like this, we are not straight parents and gay parents, we are parents. We are one national family in mourning.
We have work to do. We need to find solutions to gun violence and ignored mental health issues. We as a nation need to love our children, celebrate their joy and innocence and proliferate it. We need to celebrate our families as all who can feel and relate to what is right and good, and shout down those who would sort us out based on other more superficial criteria.
Let us come together, heal and work to preserve the love lost. Let’s not let it go in vain.