We Who Are In Shock…
The other week I wrote about reviving this blog. And I intend on doing that. Writing more, and getting others to write. But right now, writing this is all I can do. I live only a half mile, as the crow flies, from the scene of the latest horrific tragedy. I am purposely not using any place names. I am not tagging this post. I will not share it through social media. I am writing it because I feel a responsibility to this blog. And because my mind is still reeling.
I heard the first shots. Yes, I live that close. Thought WTF? Then sirens. And more. And more. More than I’ve heard in maybe forever. There’s a freeway nearby and often there’s accidents and we hear the sirens. The firehouse is close by and they go flying off to hose things down, etc. But I’d never heard anything like this. I was about to head out, get on that freeway, so I thought I better check online (yes, always checking online). But the traffic map looked fine. There were too many sirens for that. So I checked news. And then, less than a half hour after I heard those shots, I heard about the school.
As the minutes crept by, the helicopters came, mostly news choppers, but also a state police chopper over the woods behind our house. The news choppers would be there all day, into the night, hovering. As the news came, it was horrific. All three of my now grown children went to that school. I volunteered for years in the classrooms. I can close my eyes and see the place, even though I haven’t been there for several years. I still know teachers there, and friends have children there. I dreaded the moment that I had to see “the list” even though I knew I’d have to look. An odd, guilty sense of relief when I read it. Oh, I recognize faces, and names, but I didn’t really “know” any of them.
I have not been personally touched, but I know that our entire town, and beyond – because that’s how towns are – has been traumatized. I see it in the eyes of the folks in the laundromat where I had to go to this morning (my washer is broken and I was down to my last pair of clean underwear – that’s reality for you). I saw it in the few folks wandering the grocery store aisles yesterday morning (I went specifically when a press conference was underway so that the road would be relatively “quiet”).
Only one of my children lives at home now (when he’s not at college). One is on the other side of the country and one is on the other side of the world and I hovered on Skype and Facebook and email as I waited to see her show up in her morning – so I could be the one to break the news. Seeing her face, as she recognized the shooter’s last name (she was a classmate of the older brother), is something I’ll not soon forget. And all I could think is “I can’t hug her.”
As I think I said (though I was interrupted by a phone call from my brother – so I lost my train of thought while writing) – I’m posting this only because I feel a responsibility to this blog. I’m purposely not using any words that will “tag” this to show up as people search for stuff about this. Though my husband disagrees with me on this – he’s an old newspaperman – I can’t help but feel that anything more than what I’ve done here is somehow exploiting the situation. I know, rationally, that’s not the case. But I’m going from the gut here.
Maybe I’ll eventually be able to write more about all this, but for now, I just have to keep it this way. It’s much too personal, and yes, I know that’s called “survivors guilt” which WAY TOO MANY people in this town are already experiencing.
And don’t get me started on the media monster, of our own creation, that feeds us film of little kids being interviewed only moments after a life-changing experience, and film and pictures and soundbites. We insist on being fed instantaneous information, fact-checked or not, and so the monster feeds in order to feed us. That’s why the story keeps changing. It is incredible. I cannot move beyond my home without having to drive past news cameras. My heart goes out to each and every community ever touched by a media infestation like this. Locusts. They will chew us down to the stalks and then fly on to the next news story. Not soon enough though. And the next “star of the show” is watching at home, taking notes.
Yet, my daughter halfway around the world is glad of this coverage because otherwise she’d be in the dark. People I haven’t heard from in years have called and emailed and messaged. It’s so complicated and puzzling.
This is a sad story, no matter what angle.