Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Its not news anymore...

About a year ago I went to pick up Lily from her daycare, as I do every weekday. It was a hot end-of-summer day, and Daniel and I were rushing from his end-of-summer camp. But let me be honest, every day I'm rushing, every day I'm stressing out about our schedule, our appointments, our list of things to do.

On this day I went to go pick up Lily and I found the street blocked by police cars and police barriers. I found a crowd of people standing behind the barrier.

Gripping Daniel's hand so tightly he howled in complaint, I went up to the closest officer and somehow my voice worked well enough to ask, "What's happening?" I could see the storefront of Lily's school one block away. I could see that there was no one on the street but cops.

"Bomb scare." The cop said. "We are evacuating the area." He didn't look at me right away, so I don't think he registered the terror on my face. Somehow my voice kept working, and I said,

"My daughter is in that school over there. Where are the children?"

Somehow I didn't fall to the sidewalk and scream "WHERE IS MY BABY!!!!??" Which was the howling inside me. Somehow I remained upright, gripping my son's hand and forcing my brain and ears to function properly. Somehow I understood the words coming out of the cop's face, which were, "They are evacuating them. They will be coming out soon."

So we waited. Oh, about 3 minutes/3 years.  I didn't let go of Daniel's hand (although he kept pulling away and complaining about how I was hurting him). I didn't move my eyes off the storefront of the school. As if, by shear force of my stare, I could have levitated her school building to the safe side of the police barrier.

Finally another officer came to tell us that the kids were going out the back door of the school and coming around to a side street. We walk-ran to the side street and waited another eternity.

Today on the homepage of our newspaper is a photo of parents standing on the safe side of the police barrier, waiting for their children after a school shooting. Last week a nearly identical photo was printed. And the week before that, and the week before that.

Bomb scares and school shootings and evacuations... 74 school shootings in the 2 short years since the tragedy at Newtown. It's not news anymore. It is just what happens on Tuesdays.

We stand on the safe sides of police barriers and we wait an eternity. We somehow remain upright and we somehow do not fall to our knees and wail at the horrible, heart breaking injustice of our children being killed.

That day, Lily walked out of her school building, holding hands with a line of her friends... all of them smiling in their green and yellow uniforms like they were on some special field trip. The teachers fake smiled and clutched notebooks and binders of emergency forms. I held onto Lily's hand and fake smiled. Then, with my two children in my strong, strong hands in grips of iron, we walked to our car and somehow I drove home.

And somehow, the next day we left our house and I took them to school again.

Every week families wait behind police barriers outside what used to be safe places. Most of them get to hold their children again. Most of them go home.

But some don't. Some wait forever next to the barrier and never, ever go home. At least, not to the home they knew.

We are surrounded by police barriers. There are no safe sides any more. And I have no idea what to do. Because what I'd like to do is set up a police barrier somewhere - like Times Square or the Washington Mall- and fall to my knees and wail at the terrible injustice of it, wail and cry with all the parents who have been left standing without their children. Who go back to homes that are too quiet.

What will we do?

What will we do?

A Map of 74 School Shootings Since Newtown