My daughter Brianna went to the Housatonic Waldorf Valley School for Kindergarten which is in Newtown, CT. My girls also attend the camp in Newtown in the summer at the school. Last year, Brianna's class made these beautiful candles with her teachers Isabel and Laura in the Sunflower Classroom.
I pulled the candle out last night after tucking my sweet girls into their beds and knowing that at least 20 mothers only a town over cannot do the same.... I lit it. Alone in silence and cried my eyes out. I remembered that many of the children in Brianna's kindergarten class were reaching 6 years old. I know many of them transitioned to public school like we did. I wondered if any of my daughter's sweet classmates may be among the victims. I remembered the mothers and how we would congregate waiting to pick up our children outside at school... I wondered if any of them waited outside Sandy Hook Elementary yesterday to pick up their child again. And, I prayed they were able to. And then I realized that my irrational mind was trying to rationalize and it really didn't matter if it were parents that I knew or not... because the fact is that there were parents there who did not get their children back. Whether I knew them or not didn't make it less real. My mind was just reaching for anything to make it be farther away from truth.
When I heard the news that there was a shooting the the town next to us, fear ran through my body. I called my mother to come to Connecticut from her work in Westchester to be with me. I had daycare children but I needed to get my girls. At that time, there were false reports of shooters on the loose in a van... I imagined it being terrorists going school to school in our neighborhoods killing children. Anything seemed possible. As horrible as it was, at that time we thought 2 children died. We had absolutely NO comprehension of what really happened. We found that dreaded news out much later.
I got my girls out of school. Parents were crying outside... inside it was somber. Little children did not understand why so many parents were picking them up early. Parents answered with things like "because I love you" or "today seemed like a good day to go home and watch a movie together.". Older children at the middle school knew much more... with access to IPhones, etc. they were already aware of the horror... doors were chained and the blinds were shut tight... and they were not allowed to go outside. I am thankful for the staff and how our school system has communicated with us with numerous phone calls and so much love and sensitivity. But I am saddened that yet another piece of my daughter's innocence was robbed away.
When we got home, I had to sit them down and somehow explain this madness to them in terms they could understand without too much information. Our town is deeply affected, with many friends and adults who have lost someone they know or love. In each restaurant and store, there were people crying. There is no way I could keep the information from them completely. They needed it to come from me before they went back out into the world.
How do you find the words to tell beautiful, innocent souls filled with love and hope and beauty - how do you find the words to tell them that the devil broke into a school only miles away and murdered little children just like them in their classroom? How do you explain terror? How do you tell them something like this yet still somehow make them feel safe in this world?
Somehow my words came. I asked them if they understood what their lock-down drills were for at school. I am so thankful for those drills. Just a week or so ago Maia told me they had one when she was in the bathroom and she went to the teacher's lounge, the closest safe place, rather than wandering the halls because she was taught correctly.
Maia told me she knew the drills were in case a bad person came inside the school and so the children would be kept safe. I told them that something that like is extremely rare and uncommon. Something most people would never see of but sadly one of the very rare times... happened very close to our home. I explained that someone very bad hurt grown ups and children in a Newtown school. And that many children were also kept safe by wonderful teachers who loved them.
They asked me if people died. I said yes. Brianna asked me if there were children that died. I said yes. They asked me how. I told them... sort of. I told them what weapon was used without the details. Brianna asked me if the children were afraid... if they wanted their mommies when the bad man came in their classroom.... Brianna is 6 years old, just like many of those children. Immediately I had visions of those sweet children seeing their friends being slaughtered one by one... I felt the longing that must have went through them the seconds before they died wanting their mommies. But I told Brianna that when people are going to heaven... the angels come down and hold them, they love them and keep them warm and safe. That the warmth from the angels is like a mommy's love times 1000 and there is no sadness or fear at all. Keira worries about the parents who lost children and wants to help them. I do too.
I hope I said the right things. Hopefully not too much. I don't know. I have not been prepared well for this day. In my panic and shock, my previous thoughts of homeschooling came back as the solution. I could homeschool the children and keep them safe. They would be with me always. I resolved to homeschool on Monday.
Then I realized that even homeschooled children go to classes and events without their parents. They go on trains, subways, to malls and movies. They get older and meet friends and go to events together.
So I put my thoughts on gun control. We shouldn't have guns. They should be banned. Their should be stricter regulations. Then we will be safe.
Then I remembered that Connecticut has one of the strictest gun laws in the country. Even if I believe those things, in this particular case it was not the solution either.
Devastation came over me as I realized that there is no solution at all. At that moment, I felt so extremely helpless. I wondered why I didn't think more about this before bringing children into this world. Saying that these things are rare and uncommon is fine when you live far away from a mass killing... but when it happens in your own community... in your own backyard... well, it just doesn't help.
As the night went by, I cried myself to sleep. I woke up a million times and checked on my children. This morning I woke up and for a few moments hoped it was a nightmare. My heart sunk when I realized that so many families could not have possibly slept last night especially if I couldn't. I managed to bring my daughter to choir practice... their choir teacher also teaches first grade in our public elementary school. With red eyes, she told the children that if she breaks down crying to please keep on singing.
So they did.
Now later today, as I hear so many stories of heroes - teachers who hid children and gave their own lives instead like Kaitlin Roig and Victoria Soto. The stories of first responders who must have been fathers themselves who told the children to cover their eyes as they walked out, in a desperate attempt to protect what was left of their innocence.
I then remembered the quote I share often from Mr. Rogers:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
So I have begun doing that. It is helping. I see so many people reaching out from across the globe and I remember that the world is MOSTLY good. I received emails from people like David and Lisbeth of Sparkle Stories who wrote:
I just wanted to reach out and send love your way, having learned that you are close to the Newtown area. We are shocked up here and can't imagine what is unfolding in your neighborhood.
I wrote a story last night and recorded it early this morning. We really wanted to offer something small that might be helpful to a town (and state and country) of struggling families. You are welcome to take the story with the blog post or separately and use it as you wish.
We're going to put it on FB but I wanted to email it directly to you.
With great love,
David Sewell McCann
THIS is the world I live in. Goodness and light are still there. Please look for it, even in the darkness. I am trying to.
Then a daycare mom, Erica Rogan, emailed me saying that we should do something... anything. Something to help others look for the light. So here we are. Doing something... good.
We are calling it Look for The Light.
We are calling out asking for stories of goodness, of light, of hope directly related to this tragedy even in your own homes... maybe a sweet story of a child making a picture for someone who is sad in Newtown, maybe a bigger story of a hero in Newtown who went above and beyond.
And we are going to share these stories.. one by one, here on the Little Acorn Learning Blog to remind us all that there is still so much GOODNESS in the world. To do our part to bring it out.
And each night at 7 p.m. as we are doing this - we ask you to light some sort of luminary in a window or front porch, not only to remember those lost but as a symbol of gratitude for the goodness that surrounds us and comforts us all during this time.
Please participate and help us spread light and love around our grieving world. Share a good story, a happy thought, an act of kindness that you have seen in the days and weeks after this horrific event with us and we will share it with the world here on our blog.
To submit a story or share something positive for this project, email us with your contact info and story at firstname.lastname@example.org We hope to receive so many replies that we can hardly fill this space with so much goodness.
Here is a button for you to share this project with your friends, families, blogs, email lists, colleagues and anywhere and everywhere you can so we can remind people that this world is still filled with SO much good. Please just link the button back to this post at http://eileensplace.blogspot.com