I took my children to the doctor. I brought them home and fed them lunch. I put them down for their naps.
Then, I sat down at my computer and saw that someone had walked into an elementary school in Connecticut and gunned down 20 children.
It was a cold December day fifteen years ago when someone came to my high school and opened fire. Three young girls were killed. We were teenagers peering over the fence at adulthood. It took me ten years to be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“You didn’t have a normal introduction to death,” my counselor told me.
As a mother and as a victim, this is the absolute worst possible scenario I can imagine. These mothers. These fathers. They are currently standing in every parent’s own personal hell - if the word hell even did this justice. Hell implies this is a place from which one day there could be some form of escape. But to have your child taken this way is not a place. It is a new form of existence - one my brain will not allow me to even imagine.
As a victim, I inevitably think of those left in the aftermath - the teachers, the paramedics, the adults who had to see and experience things no one ever should. Over a decade later, I know so many of the adults at my school suffered trauma that continues to affect them to this day.
But oh my God...the children. I was sixteen-years-old when I learned that I was not safe. I was sixteen-years-old when I learned that life can change in an instant and that everything you thought was true was not. To learn that lesson at ten or seven or God-save-us five is beyond what I can imagine. This type of trauma changes you ... permanently.
We will all move on. We will celebrate the holidays and even if we think of the families in Connecticut, it will be with a frown and a sigh and then we will continue on. That’s normal. That’s to be expected.
But this Christmas or next or fifty Christmases from now, the people - both young and old - who were affected will still be dealing with the events of today.
My only hope is that they are only dealing with the memories of their own tragedy on their own time and on their own terms. I hope that fifty Christmases from now they aren’t sitting down to their computers to find others suffering the way they did.
Because it gets very old.
It was old when I was a senior in high school and had to watch the students of Columbine go through what we did and worse. It was old when I watched the students of Virginia Tech have their lives ripped open by a crazed gun man. It was old when I watched it happen to Gabrielle Giffords and the people of Aurora. It was old when I watched it happen to the people of Portland, Oregon, TWO FUCKING DAYS AGO.
I won’t pretend to know the solution to the issue of gun violence in America, but I’m sure as hell tired of pretending it’s not a problem. Crazy people are going to do crazy things. No doubt. The security precautions they put in place after the shooting at my high school wouldn’t have prevented a thing.
However, something can be done. Small changes on the margin are lives saved when it comes to gun control. Period. We might not ever hear about them. Politicians won’t be able to tout them as a success. Tragedy will still occur but maybe not on this scale, maybe not with this type of regularity.
When we’re talking lives - especially the lives of children - that should be enough.
~ Sarah Stewart Holland