Too Close To Home

There is something about location that makes everything that much more real.  When 9/11 happened, I had to drive my daughter into Boston for chemotherapy the next day.  Never before have I seen a city so hauntingly empty.  Armageddon had arrived. Eerily there was not anyone on the streets, the roads or out walking.  It was silent.  It was surreal and there is no other reason in the world I would have driven into a major city, except to save my baby’s life.  There was a schedule to hold and this was not going to stop us.

Being there was even more frightening than I had anticipated.  Nestled up in the 17th floor of Mass General I could see vigils going on below.  I sat in our glass high rise with my eyes glued to the TV, watching and waiting to see just what would happen next.

On the third day Emma looked out the window and screamed in fear ,”Momma look, a plane!!”.   I believe it was a military plane.  Somehow we had gotten used to the empty skies.  Planes had always been a past time for us at the hospital as we would go to the corner lounge or what we deemed, the “Looking Room” because it was all glass on two sides facing Logan airport.  We would sit and count planes and make guesses about how many we would see.  But, a plane was no longer a plane anymore, but a flying bomb.

Nothing looked the same. Nothing felt the same.  My mind never stopped and my heart never ached so much.

Nothing made sense anymore…my baby had leukemia and the World Trade Center has been attacked.  Chaos seemed to be the winner in all of this and fear was right behind it urging it on.

And then you fast forward to sitting in a movie theater watching the Dark Night and thinking about what that must have been like for those unsuspecting moviegoers.  There was so much gunfire and loudness in that movie that I bet some were actually unaware of what was even happening…thinking it was part of the movie.  I remember wanting to leave as I felt the spirits of those departed agonizing over how unfair it was to simply go to a movie and then end up never going home.  You realize…it could have been me or my son or you or anyone.

And then this…our schools.  Those little faces.  The sheer terror of those professionals realizing  the practice of lockdown drills and a reality that should never ever come to pass.  But it did.  And in that there are heroes.  Those teachers who put their students above themselves in the “line of duty”.  And I think, what would I have done?  What would you have done?

And so each time I walk into a school I have a new awareness of just how vulnerable those schools are…how vulnerable we all are really.  No measure of security is going to stop that kind of insanity.  And that is what it is…once again something that you just can’t make any sense of.  Something that gnaws at your insides and keeps you up at night.    Something that I spent 10 years of my life working against…the loss of a child.   But teachers all over the country went back into their classrooms on Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday and Friday and will return to the battlegrounds, yet again on Monday.  And what do we do to thank these people?

Let’s remember that we have amazing people out there working with our kids every day…and yes, we have all had that teacher that should have retired years ago and those who should never have been in the classroom to begin with…and we all know who they are, but more than that we have people who have devoted their lives to kids.  It is a great time to sing to the unsung hero.  Thank you child’s teacher today.  Respect what they do and perhaps this is a calling to us all to “see” our kids as human beings where we need to teach empathy and collaboration and allow for creative and artistic expression and that in the big picture standardized tests are completely meaningless.

And in this moment how do we begin to come to terms and ever feel safe again when small children in public schools are being attacked?  How do we reach out and hold those parents who lost their most dear and treasured thing in the world?  I cannot even begin to fathom what those mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers and grandparents and aunts and uncles and teachers and janitors and secretaries and nurses and other children are going through…

They have all realized our greatest fear and this strikes us all in a way that is inconceivable.   We will never be the same.