At the time of this writing, authorities said a 24-year-old walked into an elementary school 60 miles from New York City and killed his mother along with 25 others, including 20 children. The gunman, identified as Ryan Lanza, was killed inside the school. The body of another victim was located in Lanza’s home.
Being a parent is the hardest and most rewarding job I will ever hold. My son, Luke, is 5, a kindergarten student in another county.
I have always tried to protect him — whether physical harm or emotional pain, I never want Luke to hurt. My husband and I put covers on the outlets and locks on the cabinets when he was small. We have monitored his TV and any computer activity. We try to shield him from hurt feelings and scraped knees. After we discovered Luke’s mold allergy, we have washed fruits and veggies, avoided fires and clippings left from the mower. In short, we did everything we could to keep Luke safe, both physically and emotionally.
Friday’s tragedy in Connecticut just serves as a reminder of how helpless I am. Every morning I drop Luke off in front of his school and watch him walk in, trusting that when one of us arrives in the afternoon Luke will be there safe and sound and happy. No doubt the parents of the 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School thought the same.
The shooting, like every mass shooting before, raises countless questions, but in Newtown, Conn., the shock comes because these were children. Children looking forward to Christmas, playing with friends, making plans for the weekend. These were children, completely defenseless against a heavily armed 24-year-old.
With gun control making headlines across the nation, the debate will rage between both sides — to control guns or not? There will analyses of how to better handle mass shooters in schools. Law enforcement and education officials will study the response to the situation, just as they did following Columbine.
And no one will find the answer.
There will be no way to comfort the parents and families of the 26 victims. No one will find an answer to bring them peace.
When you become a parent, you try to protect your children from everything and then something like Newtown comes along and shakes your resolve. We will go home and hug our children and talk to those old enough to understand.
By Saturday morning, the wave of grief poured out in the hours following the shooting will begin to fade — the attention span of our nation shifting to some other new story or scandal. But the parents of 20 small children will be waking up from every parent’s worst nightmare.
So when Luke bounds into our bedroom at 6 a.m., I will hold him a little tighter and thank God my son woke up this morning. A lot of parents won’t be so lucky.
Jessica Loeding is the managing editor for The Daily Tribune News.