Dear Charlotte, Daniel, Olivia, Josephine, Ana, Dylan, Madeleine, Catherine, Chase, Jesse,
Grace, Emilie, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Avielle, Benjamin, Allison, and James:
It feels wrong to move on with the lighthearted story of my life without acknowledging your precious and all too brief existences. Most news stories are just that, news stories, a mostly unwelcome distraction from our day but your stories have changed me. I am not able to not think of you, and am having great difficulty picking up and moving on from the terrible thing that happened on 12/14/12. I don't know if it's because I have a child your age and realize the eternal silence that would haunt me in his absence, or if it's because I spend a lot of time with first graders and can picture your wide set eyes, lightly freckled noses, Twinkle Toe shoes, twirly skirts, chubby fingers with marker residue all over them, and cargo pockets containing treasures of rubberbands and toy dinosaurs, or if it is because I am a human being; a human being currently unable to comprehend how this happened to such sweet and innocent creatures living in a civilized world.
I feel paralyzed by my grief and shock. I feel torn between never wanting to let my children go and having difficulty looking at them because it makes the loss of you that much more real and that much more profound. In times of uncertainty I often have this mental image of unlatching tiny double doors in my heart and tucking my boys deep inside, where they will be safe from reality. I cram them in there tightly, so they are safely insulated from the bumps and bruises of the world and so that they cannot leave me. I wish I could do it for real. My heart aches for the ability to do it for real.
But I see your brave parents (your dear, courageous, sweet parents whose pain I would bear in short shifts to alleviate this burden placed on them) sharing your memories with us, tales of your big hearts and carefree smiles, photos of your wide-eyed wonder for the world around you, and I know that you would not want us to be paralyzed with grief and fear. You would want the world to keep smiling, to keep playing, to keep making friends, to keep learning, to keep being a joyful playground.
I will honor your memories by not forgetting this and by not throwing my hands up and saying "Freak incident, nothing we can do," because I think we can do more in many areas and I will advocate for those changes. I will remember you in times of frustration and hopefully stop and count my blessings. I will feel true gratitude and appreciation for the teachers and administrators of my children. You will help me become the parent I want to be by lending me patience and perspective about our time here. I will try to be a better citizen and a helper, while also trying to be observant and honest about the true condition of people and what desperation or illness may drive them to. I will take more time to enjoy the little things and allow the fun, messy things more often.
And I will place each of you in that empty spot in my heart, behind those tiny pretend doors, safely tucked away, and I will not forget you. I will not let you become another news story in my life. I will carry you with me and you will be the reminder that I can do better, that we can do better, and that it's worth being better.
God bless your dear, sweet hearts.
Although we're the ones who need it.
With Respect, Sincerity and a Heavy Heart,