At dinner my five-year-old boy tells me that he had a lockdown drill in his kindergarten classroom. He crouches down on our kitchen floor. I had to sit like this for a very long time Mommy, he says. My teacher told me it will keep me safe. Locks, lights and out of sight, he tells me. The kids did great, we heard in a voice mail message from the school later that night. Though I am grateful that my son’s school is following safety protocol, I am crying tonight because I can’t stop thinking of the Newtown shootings as my son approaches the age of the schoolchildren who were killed five years ago.
Five years ago on December 14th I held my baby boy as I read my friend’s Facebook post. Our son is safe. No other news yet. I waited to understand what was happening, and then I knew. I looked on in disbelief at the photos of young children slaughtered in their classrooms. Massacre. Bloodshed. Those sweet faces, in their last school photos smiling. Innocence and a few adult teeth. Bright eyes and Christmas coming. The children were about to turn seven or eight. My friend’s young son lost his best friend that year.
Why am I writing about Newtown on my blog about newborn death and miscarriage? When a woman holds her newborn baby as she cools in her arms after birth, she is changed. I am not afraid to speak my mind, and after one of my children has died, I am afraid to send my living son to school.
Terrorism. We use this word to describe people who look different from white Americans who violently attack others, but here in the United States white men commit acts of terrorism, though we do not use that word. Gun laws haven’t changed much since Newtown, and that city is close to my heart because I lived in nearby Shelton, Connecticut, for a decade.
On the first day of school this year I walked up hundreds of steps to the Shrine of Mother Cabrini, and prayed and cried asking for protection for our children. I hope that there is an angel at every entrance of my son’s school. And my niece’s school. And every school in our broken country. I hope that our wonderful teachers are safe, and that our children are safe. Recently, our priest discussed guns in liturgy after the church shooting in Texas. He declared that having weapons in church to prepare for an attack goes against every tenet of our faith. Some people opposed him saying that they should be able to protect the children. If God takes us, then we will be martyred for Christ, he said. Every liturgy he prays for the bloodless offering of the Eucharist.
I wrote a check to Everytown for Gun Safety this week. My donation was doubled by a matching gift. I have little faith that my donation or any of the petitions I sign will make much of a difference in our violent country. We play violent video games and watch violent TV shows and movies. Our news is violent. Violence has become the norm in America. The NRA is a stronghold in Washington and is working hard to pass conceal carry laws expanding gun use right now. More people can carry loaded guns in our malls, our schools, libraries and all public spaces. The new law will limit each state’s ability to control guns through background checks and other measures. I’m not sure why my fellow citizens do not see the manipulations of another lobby, of another big business. Americans feel safer with more guns. Americans believe it is their constitutional right to bear weapons. Americans call people like me liberal because I want my son to be safe in school where I cannot protect him from madmen with loaded weapons of war.
Reader, do you feel safe as you snuggle your child? Do you think that you have the right to bear weapons of war that are used for mass shootings? What is the intention of a citizen buying a semiautomatic weapon? And what happens if your daughter or son or niece or grandchild becomes the victim of gun violence? Would your belief about gun rights change then?
When my daughter, Mary Rose, died in my arms I thought that I would die from grief. I am not the only one grieving. Time does not heal the wound of losing your child. Ninety three Americans will be killed today with guns. Several are children. I do not want to own a gun to protect my family. I want to walk out into the day and night with confidence that I can be safe in Colorado, or in Connecticut or Virginia. I hope for a day when lockdowns are not needed in a kindergarten classroom.
This year my son started full-day school and took his class picture. He brings home math and art work. He reads to me. And as the school year has unfolded, I pause and remember Newtown often. I do not know the future of my boy, nor of our country, but sometimes I breathe in the scent of his hair and sweat so deeply I know that I won’t miss the time that we are given together. I remind myself that I only have this one moment of wet kisses, lego airplanes, Bob books and sweet chocolate treats.
I am moving to Littleton this month, and in the yard where I will garden there is a memorial tree that was given out by the city to honor the victims of the Columbine shooting that took place in 1999.
On the five-year anniversary of the Newtown shootings, I pray that we take control of our safety by stopping the very people who are profiting on death and mayhem. May our children live and thrive. May all their adult teeth come in.
This December I offer my words to the families of Newtown in solidarity and love, hoping that in the coming years Americans will change the laws and reduce the weapons that are killing, killing, killing. As citizens we have choices to make about our rights. I like to think that the rights of children in a classroom are more important than the rights of mentally unstable people who desire to own weapons of war. This December I remember each of those lost in the terrorist act of Newtown, each child and each adult. May the light of their souls shine brightly on all of us and show us the path to mercy…