I don't consider this a space for political discussions, but gun violence has become a parenting issue and so I have decided to write about it.
I am so very disappointed with what happened today. The fact is that 90% of Americans support background checks, but the bill still didn't pass. This is just a small glimpse of a serious and deeply disturbing problem in our country. But before I get into the legislative debate, I'd like to explain why it is so personal to me.
On May 20, 1988, a mentally ill woman with a history of violence went into one of our town's elementary schools and shot one first grader and five second graders. One died. Two were the siblings of my 7th grade peers. The woman then fled the school, entered a house and shot a twenty-year-old before killing herself. My parents, who had been at a meeting at the junior high when the call came in, went to the school to help and served as first responders.
It is difficult to write about that day, what it did to our community. I can state the facts, but not more than that. My sister, who was in second grade at the time, recently commented that none of her friends ever talk about it, and I have noticed that, too, among my friends. Twenty-five years later we still can't find words to describe the horror of that day. There is nothing we can say that even touches it, so we say nothing. But it lives in us and always will, and every time another school shooting occurs, the vivid pain and grief of that day comes rushing back.
There have been many school shootings since the one in my town, and each time I try to shrug it off and block out the information and images. I've already been through that, I've already grieved for children shot. But Newtown is different. I am a mother now, and not only that, I am a mother to a six-year-old. I have spent two Thanksgivings with friends in Newtown. My children have played on a Newtown playground. I ran in the Newtown Thanksgiving Road Race. I cannot shrug off the horror or block out the information. I am haunted by images of children with holes through their little bodies, lying still on the floor. I can too easily see my daughter's face on one of those lifeless bodies, still in the clothes she had picked out the night before. I have to force these images out of my mind on a daily basis. But even when I succeed in suppressing them, the grief cuts in when I least expect it - when I am combing my daughter's hair before school, reminding her to sit still at the dinner table, kissing her goodnight at bedtime. I can barely grasp the pain that overwhelms me before my mind's reflex rejects it, leaving me empty, anxious and depressed. All of this grief... and I am not even part of the Newtown community.
After the shooting in my home town, I rationalized that it would not happen again. It was a once in a lifetime, random tragedy. Surely measures would be taken to solve whatever problem there was in the system. But it has happened again. It keeps on happening. Here we are twenty-five years later and nothing has been done. In fact, gun ownership has increased, military-style assault weapons are available to anyone who wants one, and there are approximately 11,000 gun-related deaths per year in our country.
And today congress voted down a simple, sensible law that would require a background check before purchasing a gun… a law that 90% of Americans supported.
That is all I can write today.