The Saturday before last, the 8th of December, to be clear, on a drive to a friend's house, Nathan was telling his father and I about the lockdown drills at school. When I asked him to explain it to us, he gave us the details of where they hide and the steps they take. He needs to remember the procedure for the gym and his classroom. I assume there are procedures for the art room and the library, too. They are not allowed to talk or move or make any noise. Then the principal comes around to each room to see if she can tell if kids are in there.
This isn't the first time he's told me about the lockdown drills. He mentioned one earlier in the school year. When asked why they do these, he said it was in case someone bad gets in the school. I asked him if this scared him and he told me it didn't. I was disturbed the first time it was brought up and I was no less disturbed the second time. I hate, hate, hate the idea that these are needed.
I took solace in the fact that he's only in kindergarten. He's not at an age when retaliation for bullying is a realistic fear. I believe, perhaps naively, that the kids in his class and in his grade are probably not dangerously violent. Even though my maternal instinct always says to keep him by my side, to protect him at all costs so that he is never, ever hurt, I have always known that it's not possible. I know I have to send him out into the world and trust that he will come home to me every day. I believed he was safe.
And then the tragedy in Connecticut happened. In my head and my heart I know that most of the world wouldn't do such a thing, but the fact that it could happen, the fact that it did happen, has taken all of my fears and given them a validity that I am not comfortable with.
I read about the teacher who was killed, but not before hiding her children in cabinets and closets. When I think that it could have been Nathan, scared, shoved into a hiding space while his teacher was murdered a few feet away, I can barely contain my fear and sadness. What those children saw and heard is unimaginable.
On a regular day, it takes a lot for me to not worry about all the things that could happen and all the ways tragedy could strike. These are no longer regular days.
After my conversation with Nathan, I had planned a post about the lockdown drills and just didn't get to writing it last week. Nathan doesn't know about what happened in Connecticut and I don't plan to tell him. I don't know if he really is scared about the prospect of a bad person getting in his school and a lockdown being a reality. Maybe he is just so innocent that he doesn't understand. I hope that's it. Worry is a burden I don't want for him. All too soon he'll know why they do these drills and I can't handle the thought of him thinking he's in danger.
Right now I'm watching him, sitting at his kid-sized table, in his almost-too-small dog jammies, watching SpongeBob and flipping the foil top of a single-serve package of Pringles. I want to scoop him up and hug him and never let him go. I know I have to let him go. I know he needs to live in this world, and so do I, and we have to believe we are safe while being prepared for when we're not.
I don't have words to express how sorry I am for the losses of the families of Newtown. I keep trying to write something that can equal the magnitude of what happened and I realize there is nothing that can be said or written that will do that. I can't fathom what they are going through.
I am heartbroken and angry. I need to do something. I can't sit here any longer, wishing the world was different. I need to speak out and work for change. Because I believe we can change things. I refuse to be afraid and not do something about.
The time for wishing and hoping is over. Quite frankly, it should have been over a long time ago.