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Challenge: Finding Your Voice as a Parent

Remembering Sandy Hook

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December 14th, 2012. I’m sitting at my desk on the 30th floor of the Aon building in Chicago. One seat over from me, a wall of windows frames the deep, still water of Lake Michigan. The sun shines brightly on the water - no boats in site. Just the red and white circus tents of the city’s water filtration system dot the horizon.

It wasn’t yet noon when the news started to pop up. I was checking ad campaigns on MSN, capturing screenshots of my client’s new creative advertising campaign. As I refreshed the page to rotate through other advertisers, the homepage started to change quickly.

Red boxes alerted the public to breaking news: a school shooting. An elementary school shooting. I felt hollow. Cold. My mouth went to cotton. “Fuck.” I said out loud. It’s not an unusual utterance in the ad business but the depth and the weight of my tone caused people to look up. “The news. There’s - a shooting. At an elementary school.” We were all kind of quiet after that. I ate lunch in silence - refreshing the homepage regularly for updates and cried at my desk - unable to believe that we live in a country where this is possible. I left work early. Do I really want to have kids? I wondered.

The sun was just setting as I walked home. Too jittery to take the El. Most of the time the crush of the city felt overbearing, and the brown line heading north near rush hour was sure to be jammed. As I crossed over the State St bridge, my boots echoing on the metal plates of the sidewalk, I took in the pink and purple sky.

This is the sort of sight that makes me believe in God.

The last ember of the sun was sinking over the river and the violet sky was awash in a spray of cotton candy. Taking it in, I didn’t feel so hollow anymore. The beauty of the natural world fills me up and reminds me of something much larger than me.

I stopped for a moment on the bridge where less than a month earlier my husband and I had taken photos as newlyweds. Instead of remembering a joy filled moment, I said prayers for the hundreds of people this tragedy would touch.

Standing here three weeks ago, I never would have imagined that soon I’d be crying over 20 dead children (plus seven adults) and their cold new homes.

The sky darkened. Show over. And I continued on my way, remembering part of a story I’d heard once about a woman who’d lost her entire family in a car accident on an achingly beautiful summer day. Tragedies can happen any time and often do, in the most beautiful settings. It is up to us to remember all of these children. Their beautiful faces and sweet voices did not come home to their parents. Their families will forever have a chilling void where their child used to place a warm, pudgy hand.

My sadness saturated me that day and while much of it remains, what I mostly feel now is anger. That this continues to happen. That I don’t feel safe sending my kids to school. That I am constantly checking my surroundings when we’re out in public. That we live with a government who has done NOTHING. And continues to do nothing but send empty thoughts and prayers. Then sit back, and watch the rising tally of innocent victims.

I don’t want to take your guns away. I want common sense gun laws. I want mandatory background checks. I want guns removed from people with restraining orders and domestic violence convictions. I don’t want people who are on medications that can cause mood disturbances and violent mood swings to not be able to buy guns. I want people to have to take gun safety classes and keep up to date a license and a registration for each gun they own. Buy insurance. BE RESPONSIBLE.

I don’t care if “people kill people, not guns.” I don’t care if “people can still get guns if they really want them.” Let’s make it harder. Let’s start TODAY.

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