Four years ago, on December 14th, 2012 I ran out of my house, shouting good-byes over my shoulder to my three babies, as I was late for work as usual. My children were in third grade, second grade, and daycare. I did not give my children another thought that morning as I drove quickly to work and began to navigate through my busy day.
Several hours later, around lunch time, my world was destroyed.
Later that day I found myself home with my girls. I had locked all of my doors, even the deadbolts. I had pulled closed my curtains and blinds, desperate to shut out the terrifying world I lived in. I put a Christmas movie on our television and snuggled into the couch. I made all three girls sit with me. And I cried.
I cried for each one of those beautiful innocent lives senselessly taken. I cried for those teachers who gave up their lives trying to protect those children. I cried for the mothers and fathers who were not sitting on their couches with their babies but were, instead, sitting numb and raw in Newtown. I cried for the other teachers in Sandy Hook, the first responders, and every other person directly impacted by this horrific act of hate happening in a town not even thirty minutes away from my own.
And I cried for me. I am a mother and I am a teacher. I was devastated.
My husband came home from work that evening shattered as well. He found his four ladies still on the couch. Dinner hadn’t been made. Afternoon chores and errands hadn’t been completed. And it didn’t matter.
Four years later, I sit at work still terrified for my children as they go through their own days at school. The fear is not as crippling as it once was but it’s still there, especially today, especially since this year my youngest is in kindergarten. I am confident of my older girls’ abilities to sense danger and to make sound decisions if their lives were threatened. I am sure my baby would be vulnerable. I am depending on her lovely teacher to protect her.
Four years later, I sit in school as a teacher wondering how I would protect my own students and thinking about my proximity to exits. Every school year we practice how to lock down our rooms. Every September I show my students where we could hide and we talk about the quickest, and safest, route out. This is our new normal. This is the reality of our world. Schools are not safe havens for children.
This morning I did not run quickly out of my house. Every morning since that fateful day I take my time as I leave, no longer worrying if I will be late. I find each of my children. I give them some words of love. I give them each a hug and a kiss. I say a silent prayer over each of their beautiful heads for their safety. I pray others are kind to them that day. I tell them to be good, always. Then, I kiss them again.
Kiss your children every day. Give them love. Teach them to be kind. Help them find ways to become the change we must see in this world. Work with them to create another, kinder, new normal. Love needs to win.