fear and blessings

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.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “fear and blessings

  1. In some very small way, I can relate to this so much. I had a lot of the same reactions to the news this morning. When I was growing up in Oregon, our school district was in the same league with Thurston High School. The year before Columbine, Kip Kinkle killed his parents, two students and wounded 25 other people in a school shooting. It was legitimately second only to 9/11 in terrifying experiences of my life. Everything changed after that. I had friends there. I knew the details of that school. From that day forward, we were ALWAYS on high alert. Threats of guns on campus and bomb threats/drills became “normal.” I so wish that wasn’t my normal.

    Like you said, “things like that just don’t happen HERE.”
    Count our blessings, indeed.

  2. Jamie

    Wow what a powerful post. The UT tragedy really threw my day into perspective (I’m complaining about a cold call and THIS is happening in another part of the world?). One of the most jarring moments of my life was when I was training to teach at a middle school and they went through the drill for what to do if a student brings a gun. Because it has happened before in the 7-9th grade group, apparently. I don’t know if I can or want to make sense of it but just to feel lucky that he didn’t harm anyone else yesterday.

  3. amanda : oh my gosh, that’s terrible. violence at school may be the most frightening crime, if only because it’s so unexpected. violence happens in the hood, in the city, but not at school.

    jamie : i’ve been struggling to make sense of this for 11 years. and you’re right, perspective is so incredibly important. knocks me on my butt every day.

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