There’s a lump lodged in my throat.
The gymnasium was packed on Friday morning at my son’s elementary school in Fair Lawn, NJ. The large crowd had gathered for the annual holiday show. The show, which began at 9:00 a.m., featured each grade from K-5 performing a song to celebrate Christmas and Channukah. There was dancing and speeches as well.
Children beamed with pride as they performed the numbers that they clearly had spent time preparing. Teachers nodded with satisfaction. Family members smiled, waved, and photographed.
My 6-year-old son’s kindergarten class took the stage last. He sang, did the hand motions, and bopped with the music. He blew a kiss to my wife from the stage and had her heart.
Joy, innocence, cheer. These words summarize the Holiday Performance. Everyone left happy.
The scene, the numbers, the insanity of it all makes the events at Sandy Hook Elementary School seem earth-shattering. Six- and seven-year-olds, shot multiple times. They probably loved cotton candy, Lego, and Spongebob. What did they dream? What did they wish for? What did they hope?
These mass shooting tragedies are getting too high to count. We shake our head and pity those involved. Then, the incidents meld into each other. And the number of victims and families torn asunder add up. What do we as a nation do to deal with our collective survivor’s guilt? Surely every parent has embraced their child a little tighter thankful for the opportunity to do so while wondering about the horror of those parents who no longer have that blessing.
Maybe, we can’t send our children to school anymore. Or the mall. Or the movie theatre. Maybe, we should all lock our doors and go on Facebook. A virtual connection is at least a safe connection.
Of course, living a completely isolated life is practically impossible and undesirable. So, instead, there will be talk.
We’ll get advice and details over the next few days. Pundits will pontificate, police will report, and politicians will bloviate. What can they tell us? This is why it happened, we have it covered, keep living, it’s okay to be scared, etc. Does that make anyone feel better? Does anyone feel safe now?
A mass tragedy can happen anywhere, anytime, and to anyone. That is the lesson learned from this horror. Period.
On Monday morning, I will enter the classroom where I serve as a teacher. Certainly, I will teach a lesson, hope the students learn, encourage them to participate, remind them of homework, and push them to try their best. However, the mark of a successful class will be everyone walking out safely together when the bell rings.
The world has changed.
I have a lump in my throat, and it is not going away.