I am at a loss. I cannot quite grasp what has taken place on this day, May 24, 2022 in a town just 85 miles south of where I live. I cannot comprehend the earth-shattering heartbreak that these parents are suffering through right now. Heartbreak that could quite literally stop a beating heart. The sheer void that must be felt at this moment by each of the victims’ parents. If I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck, having no personal connection whatsoever to what happened today, I can only imagine the crushing weight of grief that has taken hold of the Uvalde community.
I feel like it’s such a knee-jerk reaction to immediately try to relate to these kinds of travesties. I know I do every single time something like this happens. I think to myself: What would I do? Could I pull through? How would it feel? And every time I even allow myself to think about a world without my boys in it I feel my knees buckle and the floor give way beneath me. I have to quickly snap myself out of that distorted alternate reality before it becomes too overwhelming.
Maybe not enough of us are allowing ourselves the opportunity to feel tragedies like this as deeply as we should. Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe there is a lack of genuine empathy and fear of what feelings will be unveiled if stepping into the shoes of those who are grieving is actualized.
All I know is that I am overwhelmed with emotions for numerous reasons and I can’t seem to temper them no matter how hard I try. I’m sure it’s because I immediately think about the ages of those children and how they were my son, Nico’s age. I think about how they were in school with their teacher, who I’m sure adored them all and was giving it her all like she did everyday. I have an affinity for teachers, not just because I was one, but because teachers are literally the most incredibly selfless individuals I know. I learned that the teacher who lost her life today was a Special Education teacher. To me, she was not only incredibly selfless, but also probably the most dedicated teacher to her students because she had to know them on very individualized levels. I think about their final moments. How, because it wasn’t an instantaneous loss of life, the utter fear they all must have felt and the immediate cries that must’ve followed for their moms and dads, and husband and child.
Then I think about children like my Nico, who may have been blissfully unaware of the circumstances because they live within their own wondrous world. I don’t know what Nico would’ve done in a situation like this. He doesn’t even react with urgency or respond even a little in kind when someone mistreats him, throws something at him, or hits him. Were there any children, like my Nico, who lost their lives today and had all of their hard work and progress snuffed out in an instant? My heart aches even more for their parents who are now left wondering what their children’s final moments were like and how unbelievably unfair it is that their lives were cut short before they could reach their fullest potential.
And, yes, this is beyond horrible to even think about, but how dare we not. Why should we as a nation NOT take this immense sorrow on along with these grieving parents and this devastated community? We should feel this sadness and anger and frustration until we channel it into something that will finally spark systemic change because I cannot pretend that this won’t happen at Nico’s school. I can’t be naive to the fact that there is hatred and bigotry and racism lurking around my own community and city. And it just takes one comment, one action, one event, like today, to initiate the next mass shooter’s plan of attack. I won’t live in fear, but I can’t live with complacency either. I won’t allow myself to not feel the weight of this tragedy.
Our ability to show empathy is one of the most impactful acts of unity we can offer up to each other. Only then will we begin to dismantle the harmful, toxic rhetoric that has taken hold of our country.
I was glued to the TV all day and night, watching the coverage, and all the while Nico was in the living room with me doing his own thing completely unphased by the worst mass shooting in his state’s history. Maybe that’s a good thing. I really don’t know. It goes back to my ongoing concerns for my son though; he is not where he needs to be intellectually and cognitively and I’m feeling very unsettled with this realization. But, nevertheless, I held him so close to me this evening. I held both my boys tightly. I literally wanted to feel their hearts beat. That’s how closely I needed them near me.
I only wish I could give that to the parents in Uvalde. If only my words could be part of the genesis for reform that absolutely MUST come as a result of today’s horrific events. Because what makes me sick to my stomach is the thought that these parents will wake up tomorrow, if they even sleep at all, to lunch bags that no longer need to be filled, clothes that no longer need to be laid out, breakfast that doesn’t need to be prepared, and a deafening silence that no amount of noise, chaos, destruction, distraction, or time will ever fully be able to lessen.
So, I challenge you:
- Hold on to each other a little tighter and a little longer this week
- Plan that trip and stop procrastinating
- Sit down to dinner as a family
- Take that mental health day and have fun as a family
- Just be intentional in everything you do so that your regrets are few, your memories are many, and your presence is preserved
And to all the victims in Uvalde, TX…may they Rest In Peace.