One year ago today, twenty children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The events of that day absolutely flattened me.
I can remember opening my computer, after putting Charlie and Millie down for a nap, and seeing the breaking news alert on Yahoo’s home page. I can remember stifling a sob when I read how many were believed to be dead. I can remember turning on the television and seeing those first images – shown in a continuous loop – of terrified kids running from the school. I can remember meeting Henry at the bus stop while crying uncontrollably. I can remember trying to explain to him why I was so upset.
I knew no one that lived in that community. No one that attended that school. I knew not one of the first graders that died that day. Yet, in a way, I did know them. Because I had a first grader at the time. A six-year-old boy. A kid that looked just like those kids and went to a school just like that school.
And, first graders are a lot alike. Across the board. I bet some of those kids were excited to go to school that day. Most were looking forward to seeing their friends, their teacher. I bet some of those kids were studious and others goofy. I’m sure there were a few that were wicked smart and a couple that talked too much in class. Maybe some that were better at sports and others that liked music. I’m willing to bet all were looking forward to recess.
And, because I know a little about what first graders are like, I’m positive that when that shooting started, they were terrified and confused and wishing they were with their parents. I’m sure they were worried and sad. I know they were too young to understand what was happening yet, I know they probably did. First graders are smart, you see.
My grief was relentless that day. I just couldn’t imagine the loss of so much life. Because, if anything, first graders are ALL life. All joy and loud-talking and awkward honesty and kindness and every other good thing.
The way in which people respond to tragedies is extremely personal and quite subjective.
Knowing that, I still logged onto Facebook that evening looking for solace and a sense of community. I found… not quite that. My Facebook feed the evening of Sandy Hook was peppered with political ramblings and gun control ranting and people drawing attention to themselves through the tragic circumstances of others. And, while there were definitely thoughtful posts offered up by many, they were muffled by the vitriol of a few.
It wasn’t that any one person was in the wrong for voicing their opinion. It wasn’t that I agreed or disagreed with their point of view. It was just that, in that moment, that night, I wanted the world to stop. To pause and imagine those first graders. Imagine those families. Let the magnitude of the events sink in before pointing fingers and making assumptions. But, that’s not how the Internet works. It is immediate and it is personal and everyone does it in their own way.
I quit Facebook that night and didn’t log back on for seven months.
I immediately regretted the no-notice method in which I cut contact with such good friends. Some, I speak with or email frequently so communication was speedy. Others, I felt would be confused on why I had disappeared. Over the months, I really missed the tight-knit group of people I spent time with online. There were a number of us that were genuinely invested in the lives and well-being of one another. We took an interest in new jobs and new babies and new travels. It continued to feel odd to not share the news of our family with them.
The management of this blog’s Facebook page mandates a personal account so I rejoined the site in July, when I started writing here. I had really and truly missed my people and it felt good to rejoin the group.
However, my circle is much smaller now. Not to shut out dissenting opinion but rather to simply focus more on that same core community that was always there before. Friends and family, both distant and near, that are a true support system. Surrounding myself – virtually – with the people you would want to interact with when really bad things happen.