All I wanted to do Friday night was hug my kids. Since that was physically impossible - Ella Numera Una lives more than six hours away by car, and Ella Numera Dos still resides in the Upper Midwest, more than twice that distance - I had to rely on cell phone and text message.
I was scared Friday afternoon. Scared for my daughters, my high school cherubs. Scared, even, for me.
You all know what happened. A maniac blasted his way into an elementary school in rural Connecticut and killed 20 six- and seven-year-olds. Plus six adults - teachers and administrators. And that was after riddling his mother's body with ammunition from a semi-automatic rifle before heading over to the school.
The newspaper accounts are chilling - the cable news feeds are over the top. I had to stop watching after the millionth loop of the reaction videos. Of course, it would be too much to air the carnage, but the talking heads did their best to speculate on all the gory details.
Who kills children? A more appropriate question might be: Why can someone legally buy a semi-automatic weapon? And who in her right mind could justify that purchase as one made for her own self-defense?
The gun control lobby was out in full force this past weeked. But too few of the news groupies swarming tiny Newtown, Connecticut even tried to connect the dots. The shooting at Sandy Hook school raises two issues: The young man who ripped the hearts out of so many people around the world struggled with his mental health. And the guns he used to wreak his havoc were all legally purchased, by the mother he gunned down on Friday morning.
I cannot even imagine the unadulterated hell that the community of Sandy Hook, and the extended Newtown community, must be living through right now. I can only grieve from afar and pray that peace comes to those who have suffered - and lost - the most.
The Sandy Hook School had a new security system, including a locked entrance. I work in a high school with more than 30 doors to the outside world. Some of them are locked - when the four overworked security personnel and one county police officer tasked with guarding our building remember - but most often aren't. Students, teachers and outsiders often roam our halls freely.
We've had a few scares in the 18 years I've worked here. The rumor of a young man who was said to have brought a shotgun to U.S. History class. The adult brother of another student who produced a handgun in the lobby outside our auditorium and intended to settle a score. Both incidents were resolved peacefully - the student did have a shotgun, unloaded and broken down, in his car. The disgruntled sibling left the scene without firing. But I often wonder when the we'll hear a report of another disgruntled individual who wants to settle a score.
Our school performs regular lockdown drills, just like Sandy Hook. We're all aware and most of us are alert. And I'd like to think that I and my colleagues would perform as heroically as those American Heroes up in central Connecticut did last Friday.
An e-mail to all school employees tells me every campus in my district will have increased security Monday morning, not because of any threat, but just to reassure everyone in the wake of the Newtown Massacre. Mental health professionals will be on hand to offer counsel and reassurance to those who are feeling unsettled about the events that took place at Sandy Hook School.
The title of this post is not original - I thought of it after watching the New York City Children's Chorus open "Saturday Night Live" last night. But the hymn - and "SNL's" gesture - were more than appropriate. Twenty little angels and six of their caregivers were murdered in cold blood 11 days before Christmas, leaving a gaping wound on our nation's conscience.
"I wish I could hug you right now," I texted my girls late Friday night. Each chica responded across the long divide, and I felt some small bit of serenity.
"Hugging you from afar. XoXoXoXo," said Una.
"I know, but I'm safe," Dos texted. "And know how much you love me."