The time has come to write again but I can’t think of any topic other than Newtown. I know I need to focus on other things, but it still hangs heavy for me. Every time I sit down for a snuggle with my kids it feels like a privilege, and more fragile than ever before.
What else should I write? Oh, woe is me, getting ready for Christmas was so hard. Day care is crazy and wacky! I can’t find the silly details and complaints to focus on and make funny when all I can feel is gratitude for what I have. And I don’t think anyone feels they have the right to complain about anything yet.
I was back home in the Newtown area for Christmas to visit family. For the most part we had a lovely time, but you could still feel sadness. Every business with a sign out front had a message for “our neighbors in Newtown,” there were notices for vigils and donations, and all flags were at half-staff. Christmas candles took on more than their usual meaning.
Usually after an event like this happens the tributes seem false. As my husband pointed out, people have this weird response where they all rush to find their connection to the place (well, I did). But this one feels different. It really does feel like everybody’s mourning. As a friend of mine said, it felt like this was happening to all of us – we were all damaged.
At the same time, it didn’t. I was able to get through Christmas pretty normally, and busy myself with packing, wrapping, cooking, hosting, traveling, visiting, being distracted by (and appreciating more) the time with family. It was the day after Christmas that the sorrow hit me again, and I wondered how the Newtown families got through it.
Our brains do this weird thing when tragedy hits, focusing on that one detail that maybe keeps us from thinking about bigger things. For me it was worrying about gifts that had been bought and wrapped, only to be returned. I think about Christmases to come, and how it might feel to be a symbol of a national tragedy. Every December holiday season will be a double-whammy for the people affected by this.
I’ve been listening to the news on the sly, still trying to shield my kids from most of it. I hear the negative chatter about gun control and runs at gun shops for those who feel it’s their last chance to buy a semi-automatic. But then my heart actually swells when I hear about police buybacks where they run out of rewards because too many people brought their guns to turn in.
We’ve heard from friends who live in Newtown and are tired of the hoopla. There are well-meaning people who come to try and help, but then there is a dark side: they’ve seen people taking pictures of themselves in front of memorials, and others who were actually looking to mooch free food and presents for their kids. People are weird.
In the moving on, everyone immediately rushes to blame, fix, and point to their own reasons for why these things happen. Any logical person (especially one without a political agenda) knows that these things happen for a number of reasons, and we have much work to do to address them. But we can, and we should. In many ways, we are a very sick society, and in others, a very strong one. We have the ability to make change and help each other – we simply have to remember to do these things on a daily basis.
While embracing my firefighter uncle and cousin, I thought of the first responders who are always in harms’ way. After the shootings I read this comment: “Joel Faxon, a member of the Newtown Police Commission, said the trauma experienced by the officers should be treated no differently from physical injuries.” (Hampshire Gazette, Dec. 21)
This is profound and true. I bear witness to traumas beyond imagination that both my firefighter relatives and my ER nurse mother have dealt with throughout the years. Perhaps the discussion on mental health care will finally change, especially when we see the ravages brought on by those who fall through the very big cracks in a wildly broken system.
I wonder if Wayne LaPierre would have to see what first responders see in order to really understand the reality of what happens to people at the wrong end of a gun barrel. Would that get through to him? I wonder if the NRA is finally, a bit pathetically, taking themselves out of the discussion with their own ridiculously stupid response to this situation. We can only hope.
I know we will move on, and we should. The story is already gone from the top of the news cycle. But we should also not forget. I don’t want our collective memory to be short on this, as it is on so many topics in the 24/7 news and information world. (Does anyone remember Hurricane Sandy?)
During the crush of media coverage and the confusion of the first days after the shooting, I heard a quote that stuck with me. It was a father in Newtown who said, “We’re going to do our business (of grieving) here, and then we’ll be back. You haven’t heard the last of us.” I truly and sincerely hope that was a promise.