by now, i’m sure you’ve heard about what happened at UT today. thank the good lord above that the killer did not hit anyone else. i cannot describe the terror that gripped me when i heard the news this morning, my inconsolable fear every time there is a school shooting.
you see, i’m from littleton, colorado. i was 12 when the massacre at columbine happened. my childhood ended on april 20, 1999; i was in 7th grade. childhood is marked by wonder: optimism not yet marred by the world’s nastiness, a perma-smile plastered across the face, blissful ignorance of anything beyond one’s small corner of the planet. childhood ends as one comes to realize the depths of human depravity and learns that life brings heartbreak.
i was sitting in art class working on an etched mirror to give to my mother when our teacher was called out of the room by the principal. she came back in with a somber face and said art class was extended for a bit. 3 hours later they came on the loudspeaker and cancelled the rest of the day, saying “something happened” without giving details and instructing us to go straight home. buses dropped every child off at their front door, staff escorted the walkers. my vice principal walked me home, hugging my shoulder with one arm, a walkie talkie in the other, crying softly. i turned on the TV immediately and discovered that right there–in my town–the worst of humanity was unfolding. i sat transfixed for hours and spent the next months (and years) trying to fathom what happened. my parents have never hugged me as hard as they did that night.
these kinds of things just didn’t happen here. that was new york city or los angeles, but not here. littleton is a perfect americana town: small, nestled at the foot of the rockies, extraordinarily close-knit. we all knew someone who died; we heard the stories of cassie, we saw patrick fall from that window into the arms of the SWAT team. 13 were killed, 24 others shot, a community was left in shambles. we wept and eventually healed, but we were never the same town again.
thank heavens that today’s breaking news of a gunman at a school didn’t spiral into something worse. thank heavens no parent has to wait for their child to get off the escape bus, only to find she isn’t coming. thank heavens another community is spared this soul-consuming grief.
so please, count your blessings. again and again and again.