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How does a parent come to terms with the murder of 19 students and 3 adults?

group shooting in Texas

I am a 37-year-old American. Which means my youth was influenced greatly by two atrocities.

The first, the meticulously planned murder of 10 students and 1 teacher at Columbine High School in April of 1999 and the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001.

Even today, in moments of stillness, I find myself wondering what I would have done if it had been me, as a high school student, standing in a Library waiting for my turn to die. Would I have fought back? Would I have been paralyzed by fear. Would my last thoughts be of the fight I’d had with my mother that morning or the girl I was hopelessly in love with at that point?

Since September 2001…

There has not been a single flight that I’ve been on since September of 2001 that I haven’t wondered what I would have done if placed in the same situation. Would I have been able to do anything? Who would I have called in my final moments to tell them that I loved them?

And now, less than 24 hours after the horrific murders of 19 students and 3 adults at an elementary school in Texas, I find myself in a completely different “What If” situation.

Do you find yourself asking “What If” like me?

What if it had been my children? What if I had been a parent finding out on Facebook that there was an active shooter at my children’s school? What if I had to wait, huddled with other parents, for news on the safety of our children. What if I had to hear the wails of heartbreak as the people around me learned the worst that had happened? What if it had been my boys? What if, in an instant of senseless cruelty, my entire world was taken from me? What was the last thing I said to them at drop off? Did I forget to hug them before they went in? 

My boys are six years old and about to finish their Kindergarten year. Thus far, I have been spared having to explain to them the horrors of what happened in Texas. For the moment, their innocence is only being chipped away by the vague intruder drills they do each year. Their world is still superheroes who always save the day and villains who will always face justice. There days are filled with the exciting promise of youth and the joyful bliss of ignorance. I wonder how long it will be before we must sit down as a family and talk about the next tragedy? I wonder how long before they start wondering what they would have done if they had been in some terrifying situation?

Is today the last day?

But today, I just hugged them extra long before they went into school. I kissed them each on the head and said the same words to them that I say every morning when I drop them off: “Have Fun. Be Kind. I Love You.”

And then I drove off, knowing that it wouldn’t be the last time they’d hear me say those words. I drove off, confident that it wouldn’t be the last time that I would hold my children. But wondering, in the back of my mind, what if it was?