I went to pick up my husband’s dry cleaning today. Usually it’s an errand that takes just minutes
and is always completely uneventful. When I arrived there today however the TV was on behind
the counter. The channel was tuned to a news station and they had a breaking news story - a
shooting at an elementary school not all that far from where I lived. A domestic dispute led a
man to enter a school, find his wife, a teacher, and shoot her in her classroom in front of the
children in the room. A tragic story made all the more tragic because two of her students were
standing behind her when he fired his gun and both were also shot. One died. An eight year
old boy. A child that is the same age as my daughter, a child who had gone to school that day
to play and learn.
As I handed the sweet elderly lady that owns the dry cleaners my claim ticket, I started sobbing
uncontrollably. At first she stared at me and looked as though she was going to ask me if I was
ok, and then within moments her face softened and she asked quietly, “the shooting?” I
nodded. We talked about how tragic it was, how schools should be a safe place. What really
chilled me to the bone was something she said. Something I had thought in my mind and had
said to my husband but dismissed as being the thoughts of an overprotective mom. This was a
woman who had been on this earth many more years than I. She softly said, “I’m scared for the
people in this world. I’ve never been scared to leave my house before and now with all that has
been happening, I am. We are not safe anywhere now”. She brought up the shootings in the
Colorado movie theatre, the elementary school shooting in Sandy Hook, trucks plowing through
crowds of people. I think it was shocking to us both that we could find so many examples in our
very recent history. I explained that I had two school aged children and that I was nervous and
worried whenever they were out of my reach or out without us. She nodded. She told me she
understood. She told me that she was glad that her children were grown.
A woman who had likely seen a lot in her lifetime was for the first time really frightened. It made
me realize that maybe I was not being oversensitive, but that I now truly lived in a new sad
reality. Nothing was safe and nothing was sacred.
I no longer enjoy going to movies - instead I watch everyone who comes and goes and I keep
an eye out for anything out of place. Malls and amusement parks are places I simply choose
not to go with my kids if I can help it. Crowded places in general cause me anxiety. I look for
the exits and the escape routes and I play scenarios over and over again about how I would
shield my children if needed. I watch everyone and everything. I kiss and hug both of my kids
before they leave for school and I always tell them I love them. I never leave them or my
husband in anger. I wouldn’t want anger to ever be our last memories.
Some would say I’m paranoid and overly worried and cautious. Even jaded against humanity.
Maybe. I believe that I’m choosing to be aware of this new sad reality.
We must treasure every moment with those that we love. We cannot become numb. We must
be vigilant. We must hope that these families can heal. We must love one another and pray that
this will be the last time.