I was, ironically, with my homeroom class at school, enjoying a Christmas party. The kids, enraptured by a Christmas movie, were still snacking on their party food when I happened to check the news on my phone and see the first breaking news headline about the shooting. Since no one had yet been confirmed dead, I felt concerned but not terribly sad, since I wasn't aware of how serious it was yet. However, as the reports began to update almost hourly, my horror grew with each one, as did yours, I'm sure.
Finally, I heard the latest... 28 dead, 20 of them children. The gunman had killed his mom and gone after her kindergarten class. An entire class of children, as well as a few other students, was dead. Throughout the day, I tried hard to wrap my mind around that fact, all while feeling almost ridiculous about enjoying what now seemed trivial... Christmas parties, basketball games, movies at home.
The overwhelming feeling that engulfs all other emotion is the desire to ask WHY. Why would a young man commit such an unspeakable crime of cruelty? Why would God's sovereign plan include the slaying of teachers and innocent children? Because I have an over-active imagination, I felt myself slipping into daydreams off and on yesterday, imagining what those parents must be feeling.
Maybe one mom had dropped her daughter off at school, and, for some reason she couldn't identify, reached out to button her coat a little tighter and hugged her close, never knowing it would be for the last time.
Maybe a mom had assured her little boy, for what felt like the millionth time, that YES, they would be going to see Santa at the mall after school. Only they didn't, because her little boy is now in Heaven.
Maybe a teacher had just sent her husband a text about where they'd go for their date that night. He wouldn't realize for a few more hours that she wouldn't be there to help him finish shopping for their kids.
Maybe a dad who usually drives his daughter to the bus stop and waits in the car with her let her walk up with a neighbor, just this once, not knowing that that wait would have been their last few precious moments together.
Christmas shopping, family visits, holiday parties, traditions, Christmas plays at school... all of the typical things planned around this time of year are now not only off the calendar but have disappeared from memory as these parents are doubtlessly walking around in a fog, wondering how sending their five-year-olds to school could possibly have meant their deaths at the hands of a violent monster. Then there's the deaths of the teachers and staff.... dedicated educators (I don't know them, but I know teachers, and I tend to think most of them are heroes) who came to work ready to help these kids. Their families had no way of knowing that their worlds would be torn apart, just because their parents/spouses showed up at school.
I was very young when Columbine happened, but I remember reading a quote from one of the moms who lost a child. In response to someone's comment that her daughter had simply "been in the wrong place at the wrong time," she quickly retorted, "No. My daughter was in the right place at the right time. She was in the school library on a school day. HE (the shooter) was in the wrong place at the wrong time." I'm sure we'd all agree... these students and staff were in the right place- they were at THEIR school, only to be massacred. While I still don't know the motive of the shooter, I know that there is none that could ever justify what he did. It takes a special kind of a horrible to want to kill kids.
Typically, and I'm not proud of this, I tend to push these types of things out of my mind. They're depressing, they're scary, they remind me of my own mortality. And while I don't wish to be depressed, live in fear, or think of death (though I know where I'd be in eternity), I feel it would be wrong to dismiss what's happened in the last 24 hours. I can put my mind on other things and soon forget to be sad about this tragedy, but unfortunately those affected by it don't have that luxury. I need to be grieving for these families, praying for them without ceasing, and reminding myself that God is in control.
Yes, it's Christmas. But rather than moving on to the next big holiday event, let's be sensitive to what is still a fresh, raw pain to a lot of people. I'm not planning on being depressed for the next few weeks, but I'm planning on keeping this close to my heart and praying for these people every chance I get, as well as giving thanks for my own safety. Rather than saying, "Well, at least it's not me/my my child/my family", we can all put this in perspective. I know every parent grieves for these victims' families. I'm not a parent, but I'm a teacher. I can't imagine calming my students while gunshots are echoing through the halls. My best friend is a kindergarten teacher. I tried to picture her and her entire class gone, and couldn't do it.
As a nation, we're still reeling from this. The families of these victims will be in shock, and then grieve, for a very long time. The families of those children who experienced that day will forever be forced to help their children deal with the inevitable nightmares, the terror that follows them around, the memories that violently stole away their innocence on December 14. So what do we do? We pray. We offer support. We willingly go along with the security measures at our schools, because they are in place for a reason. We (God forbid) refuse to use this incident as a talking point for a political agenda. We love each other more deeply, and show a little more care and compassion to our loved ones. We teach the Gospel like never before, as the need for it to take deep root in our young people has never been greater.
I grieve for these teachers, knowing first-hand the job they faced and the love they had for their kids. I grieve for these innocent babies who were killed, yet feel a certain sense of relief that they won't have to grow up in this sick world. Join me in praying, in reflecting, and in remembering where you were. Don't forget the feeling you had of wanting to grab your kids and hug them, or thank your spouse just for being there, or the overwhelming need to talk to God. There is plenty to say (and it's been said) about the state of our nation, the brokenness of our people, the evil that is rampant. I agree with all of that, but I simply want to remind us to pray and grieve for these people above all else. After all we are to "Rejoice with them that do rejoice, AND weep with them that weep."
"He rules the world with truth and grace." Yes, even when we can't see it. Heaven has a lot more angels today. I think they're singing along.