I don’t feel ready to move on.
Over the weekend, a friend admitted that he couldn’t grieve for people he never knew. We aren’t grieving for strangers, I told him. The teachers of this country are grieving for every child we’ve ever known, because this tragedy has forced us to consider their mortality, their fragility. My energetic, enthusiastic, inquisitive students are not supposed to be mortal.
We know the world is dangerous. When we look both ways and hold hands as we cross the street, when we say good morning to the security guards outside our schools, we know that we’re working to keep the danger out. And we feel powerful, when we wash germs off a cut or fasten a helmet. But we try to forget that our students are naked in a world of sharp metal. We believe that children are protected, the way we want to always protect them. We look at our students’ faces and cannot imagine someone deliberately causing them harm.
People who aren’t prone to anxiety often feel protected from danger. For someone with an anxiety disorder, though, “it couldn’t happen to me” is an unfamiliar and absurd mantra. “Of course it will happen to me” is more resonant. Of course I will be the one person who falls out of this roller coaster and breaks her neck. Of course I’ll get food poisoning from this new restaurant. Of course a shooter will come into my classroom. While working at a daycare a few years ago, I spent my free time coming up with strategies for protecting the children from danger. Because the only “security” between us and the public was a perky college student behind a desk, I struggled to design plans and backup plans to protect the kids in case someone came in with a gun. I have anxiety, so “it couldn’t happen to me” has never entered my thoughts. But when I looked at those kids, and when I look at my students, my brain screams “it couldn’t happen to them.” Nothing terrible could ever happen to such wonderful children. No one could ever want to hurt them. The horror I’ve felt for the past four days comes from knowing that the teachers and parents of Sandy Hook must have looked at their beautiful children the same way.
I don’t feel ready to move on from that.