I try not to be too serious around here, but I can't just move on like the horrible, horrible events of Friday didn't happen. I was at the children's museum with Nico for the day when the news broke on Twitter. It was surreal and awful and literally gut-wrenching and I can't decide if I'm glad I found out then because I couldn't focus too much on it or if I wish I hadn't found out at all until later. I've been doing my best to avoid too many news reports since then. I don't want to read the "horrifying details." I don't want to know how many times he shot each child, where their tiny bodies were found, what the parents had to go through to identify and claim their stolen babies. My traitor brain is filling in enough of it as I lie in bed at night trying not to think about it.
The Dunblane school massacre happened on my fifteenth birthday. This was in 1996 so there was no internet, no Twitter, no instant news. Instead, there were horrified reports on the evening news, and a black and white class photo published in the international section of our local paper the next day. I don't even think it made the front page. I clipped the article and pasted in into my diary. I don't remember what I wrote and though I'm sure that journal is in my attic I'm not going to go looking. I do remember feeling utter dismay and despair that someone could do something so utterly evil. Even as a self-absorbed teenager, years away from a boyfriend let alone kids, I couldn't begin to wrap my brain around it.
When the Virginia Tech shootings happened back in 2007, I wrote I cannot imagine how parents can take this kind of thing, I especially can't imagine it today, not when I've spent hours trying not to read the reports coming out of Virginia. Will I ever be brave enough to shoulder that kind of responsibility, to risk a hurt that deep by letting my children leave my side? I used to think that parents only really had to worry about their kids until their kids were grown up. Now I know better. I look at my sister, and I don't just see the 20-year-old woman she is now. I see the roundheaded baby she used to be, the knobby-kneed stick-skinny little girl, the calmly self-assured teenager. It's killing me to think of kids just like her, just her age, going to class and never making it home. Going to class because it was school, and what could happen? My heart is breaking for them, and for their parents, who worried and worried, but knew they had to take the risk and let them strike out on their own. I want to wake up tomorrow and find out it's okay, that none of it really happened. Otherwise, how can anyone be expected to bear it?
This time, I am a mother. I still cannot begin to fathom how the parents of those children go on breathing the day after and the day after that. How do they not crumble under the weight of it?
I try not to be too political, and I really try not to make sweeping statements about topics in which I am certainly no expert. However, a few things seem obvious. Something must change. I do not know what the answer is regarding the complicated stew of laws and gun control and mental health system failings and on and on, but I do know this: while I did this very evening dine upon a deer shot by a guy I know who owns hunting rifles, it's time we ask ourselves why people in this country seem to need weapons designed to annihilate anything in their path. If you need a semiautomatic weapon to take down a deer, you're doing it wrong. If you're not using it for deer / bear / elk / moose, you don't need it. I do know that the argument "Criminals don't follow laws so it's stupid to make guns illegal" is so imbecilic as to actually cause pain. No point in making murder illegal then, or burglary, or rape, or…oh, wait. And I know in my gut, without any hesitation or doubt, that just because we don't know the firm and final answer to this problem does not mean we can choose to keep on keeping on with the status quo. It's obviously not fucking working. Every culture has mentally ill citizens, but we seem to be the only country with an appalling gun crime problem. I think it's high time we ask the hard questions and figure out why we haven't been trying to fix this since well before now, well before Virginia Tech, maybe even well before Columbine. It's not about politicizing or using victims to advance an agenda. It's not about co-opting tragedy. It's not mental healthcare vs gun control. It's not "the wrong time" to discuss the difficult questions.
Again, I'm not pretending to be an expert. I'm not claiming I have anything resembling answers. I'm just thinking of those parents who never get to see their kids again, and I refuse to accept that this is just how it's going to be. I refuse.