Ella always rides the bus home after school, except on Fridays. On Fridays I pick her up so we can drive straight to violin lessons.
On its face, last Friday was no different. And yet underneath the surface, everything had changed.
As I walked into the entryway of the school to wait for the dismissal bell, I noticed the police officer standing just inside the doors. A few moments later, a young boy entered the school with his mother and cheerfully asked the officer what he was doing there. As he asked his innocent question, all of the parents anxiously waiting for the school day to end tried to hide the tears welling up in their eyes. The police officer slowly kneeled down, looked the little boy right in the eyes, and brightly told him "I'm here to give you stickers!"
Because what else could he possibly say?
It's hard to find words when in reality, there are none.
As the horrific events at Sandy Hook Elementary School unfolded last week, the proximity of it all struck especially close to home for me. Newtown is 45 minutes away. And as details and names slowly began to be released, I learned just how small the degrees of separation were between myself and the Newtown tragedy. A family who lost a daughter is a member of our church stake. The vice-principal at Ella's school lives in Newtown, and one of his closest friends will never see his child again. One of Matt's co-workers is also a Newtown resident and knew several of the victims. And the list goes on...
But as I have attempted to process the events of last week - through shock, tears, and disbelief - I have come to the realization that the reason we are all mourning so deeply for the lost lives of those children, teachers, and school administrators, is because there is really no degree of separation at all in a situation like this. The tears I shed were not because Newtown looks so very much like my own small Connecticut town. They weren't because I knew someone who knew someone.
The tears were because when I send Ella off to school each morning, I see in her those children at Sandy Hook. All of us, no matter where we live, kiss our kids on the head each morning and watch them run off with their backpacks bouncing up and down, and we never question whether they will come back to us in the afternoon.
Until, all of a sudden one Friday in December, we do.
As we observe a moment of silence here in Connecticut and across the country this morning, as the church bells ring out 26 times for each life lost in Sandy Hook Elementary School last week, there truly are no words I can offer. All I know is that the degree of separation between us all at this moment feels very small indeed.