Though very tired, I am unable to sleep for thinking about the families in Newtown, CT, especially the parents of the children who were killed. I first heard the news in the lobby of the Hilton Hotel at O’Hare Airport in Chicago while in line to check in. Relieved to have survived the Dan Ryan Expressway and eagerly anticipating our son Michael’s imminent return from a semester abroad, I idly looked up at the TV monitor to the breaking news report of 20 children shot dead at an elementary school. Oh no . . . NO. . . I could hardly take it in.
All week I had been anxious about this day. In addition to Michael’s plane travel and my road trip, this very afternoon our daughter took off from Dulles Airport to South Africa for a three-week service trip, and my husband is traveling overnight with a school team, leaving youngest home alone. It feels oddly vulnerable to be so dispersed, and in this sensitive state, I feel so much more acutely for those grieving parents.
In a news report I saw this evening while Michael and I ate dinner in the hotel bar, a reporter described how the children were brought from the school to the fire station and kept in one room, while parents came there also and waited in another room. They needed to do a roll call with the children to make sure everyone was accounted for; then children were brought to their parents a few at a time. At a certain point, the reporter said haltingly, officials had to tell the remaining parents that there would be no more reunions. This scene became especially vivid to me, having just waited outside Gate B in the international terminal, watching for my child’s dear familiar face in the streaming crowd of travelers. With multiple monitors in the terminal showing nonstop Newtown coverage, tears had filled my eyes when the arrival screen flashed “Landed” next to his flight number.
Another story during dinner reminded me of a quote from Mister Rogers that I later saw posted on Facebook. When Fred Rogers was a little boy, his mother had told him that when bad things happen, to notice the people who are helping. In this case, it was a report about a nurse who had come to the scene just because she felt called to be there. (I think she works with cancer patients.) She wanted to be with the children and families and offer what help she could.
I would like to compose a prayer to end this post, but I can’t seem to do it — the words just aren’t coming. Tears are my prayer tonight.