There are no words, and yet, there are an infinite number of thoughts and feelings to describe what happened yesterday in a pretty town located in the northeastern state of Connecticut.

My husband called me with the news. At a stop sign, I stopped and glanced down at my phone and the New York Times website.

The words were aggressive in large print black and white.

27 dead in shooting. 20 children.

The news implied that most if not all of the children were in Kindergarten.

A few days ago I attended my son’s puppet show. Kindergarten, Room # 2, Chief Joseph Elementary. It’s just another ordinary elementary school in a city not entirely untroubled, but not too bad off relatively speaking. A few dozen parents watched 29 bright five- and six-year-olds taking turns introducing their puppet – an animal who lives in the sea – and its special qualities. I enjoy theater, and this was the best performance I’ve seen all year.

At another school far across the country, I picture 29 children lining up to wash their hands before snack, sit at desks practicing their letters, and listen to their teachers reading a book or demonstrating a simple skill. I can’t go any further than that because what comes next is beyond most people’s worst nightmares.

I cried.

We live in a time of great uncertainty, financial discomfort and competing priorities at any given time. Threatening news reaches us from everywhere, all the time… terrorism, traffic, PTSD. Streets may not be safe. Parks may not be safe. Shopping malls and movie theaters… not so safe.

But School should be safe.

There is no question in my mind that our children should enter a school without a greater worry than passing their spelling test, making a new friend, or maybe, sadly, confronting or avoiding a bully in the classroom (and bullying is scary, unsafe, and should not be ignored).

School leadership, the principal and support staff and cafeteria workers and aides and parent volunteers, should be safe.

The teachers should be safe.

The children should be safe.

Over the next few days much more will be revealed about what transpired in Newton, Connecticut. There will be details of more action. More shock. More terror. More heartbreak.

I know I’ll read each of the twenty or more obituaries of the kindergarteners who died.

The words kindergarten and obituary shouldn’t be in the same sentence.

President Obama addressed the nation. Everyone watching witnessed him pause, take a breath, and struggle to address a senseless incident to people at home wondering what to think and how to respond to a series of actions so horrific and so permanent.

Among his remarks, he said:

Our hearts are broken for the parents of the survivors, as well, for as blessed as they are to have their children home tonight, they know that their children’s innocence has been torn away from them too early and there are no words that will ease their pain.

I have often imagined my sister as a greeter of angels. I picture her greeting each of the Newton children, one by one. Hello, Margaret, hi James, hey Nicole! You’re OK now. You’re safe. I’m here to help.

I wonder if I might be able to help. I’m a survivor, too. I’m not a bereaved parent, but as someone who has experienced unexpected and senseless loss, I might be able to help. I can at least pray. And coming from an agnostic, that means something, right?

Nearly three dozen beautiful children are – poof! – gone, in an instant. We hope. Or maybe they are gone – painfully, suffering, scared –  it’s too much to consider right now.

I started a letter to a family who I don’t yet know tonight. It may serve as the draft for something bigger. I don’t know much, but what I do know is that the work of one person can make a difference.

We are in the midst of a season known by many around the world for hope, the miracle of light, the birth of a savior, unity, collective work and purpose, giving and faith. I believe no one piece is greater than the other. We are young, old, male, female, poor, rich, humble, arrogant. None of us can predict what happens tomorrow.

I cannot offer profound reflection. I can only echo the thoughts and prayers of those near and far, and I appreciate the reflections of those whom I’ve spoken to about the tragedy in Newton.

May the families of Newton discover a moment of peace, an unknown courage, and a deep well of strength and love from which they may draw deeply from tonight.


P.S. And one more thing. Ordinary people should NOT feel compelled to own assault weapons or handguns.


12 thoughts on “Kindergarten

  1. pagemanuel says:

    ‘Kindergarten and obituaries should not belong in the same sentence’…….very simple, but definitely powerful words. Many hearts continue to break but I agree with you. Let’s try to focus on hope and support for each other.

  2. “Ordinary people should NOT feel compelled to own assault weapons” I agree. No regular citizen needs to own assault weapons. I don’t give a hoot what the NRA nuts think.

  3. extechie says:

    My college roommate just sent this to me, and I thought you and your readers might like to learn about it, too:

    If you are watching coverage of the Newtown, CT tragedy and wondering what you can do – I urge you to go to the white house web site and sign this petition –

    You’ll have to create an account first by providing your name and email address.
    You’ll be sent a link in an email to click on which will confirm you are a real person.
    Then don’t forget to go back and click on the “sign the petition” link.

  4. It was such a tragedy. I think it will take time for the healing to begin. Senseless violence directed towards children is unspeakable.

  5. paralaxvu says:

    I am not a nut. I still believe in a right to own guns, just not assault rifles. Over-reacting can be as senseless as not reacting at all.

    • skpadilla says:

      I agree that you’re not a nut, and I grudgingly agree that it is one’s right in America to own guns. One of my closest friend’s husbands own various guns. He’s a true outdoorsman – hunter, fisher, crabber, clamdigger. Hunting, I get. The handgun makes me nervous because I have two overly curious children, the oldest of whom thinks guns are awesome. But what I really meant to convey was that I find it disturbing that people in our country feel compelled to own handguns in order to protect themselves. I wish things were different, so no one need feel that way.

      • paralaxvu says:

        I too wish things were different. But until they are, I think a good thing might be to teach a child (even one whose parents don’t own guns) the awesomeness of the gun in all its good and evil, and the responsibility of owning one and knowing how to use it and not use it,, and that guns, unlike video games and violent movies, cause real blood to spurt and real people–even the kids next door–to hurt. Laws to outlaw any gun that is semi-automatic and meant only to kill humans would be a good idea, though.

  6. Joan Ledebur says:

    Beautifully written…and it expresses what many of us are feeling right now.

  7. […] thoughts then turned to the twenty children who are no longer on the list. No doubt holiday gifts had already been lovingly purchased and […]

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