Utter sadness for another tragedy

I was on the elliptical today at the gym. I’d read/exercised for 20 minutes and was ready to move on to my core exercises when I glanced up at big screen televisions. Breaking News alerts were being flashed on CNN. My heart skipped.

A lot of things can cause a Breaking News alert but each time I see one, my heart skips. A bombing? A shooting?

Yes, as you well know, today’s breaking news was a shooting. A horrifying episode that leaves so many questions. I watched and read the latest update on the monitor.

I was heartbroken.

Well, heartbroken puts it mildly. I shook. Tears welled. A shooting is, likely, the the most terrifying fear of any teacher. As I searched my iPhone for news I dreaded reading I my heart melted for the families, the victims, the students and the staff. Oh. The staff. The adults who became teachers to have a positive impact in children’s lives were being looked to to protect, to answer questions they won’t have answers to and, eventually, to feel the pressure of their community. The staff had a plan in place, but now would be analyzed time and again: was this plan effective? Were they prepared? What went wrong? (These plans are customary for schools now, but they weren’t when I first started teaching).

Every time I hear of a school shooting this happens. I cry. I cry for hours. Today I sat at our gym cafe for 20 minutes, frozen. Unable to talk, to read, to do anything than stare straight ahead and think through the tears that quietly crept down my cheeks. It’s now eight hours after I first heard of the shooting and, still, I’ve thought of little else all day. My mind keeps going to the images on CNN. Just as they did after Seung-Hui Cho destroyed Virginia Tech.

Each time it gets worse. I have children. What if, I wonder, some day, my children are sitting in a cafeteria enjoying breakfast before the day begins and another student pulls out a gun? What if it’s my friend’s child? My child’s friend? My child?

I cried for the parents. I cried for the students. I cried for their friends and their community.

And then I cried for the teachers. Were there warning signs? Was the lockdown policy followed properly? Should the “stampede” that was reported have been what it was? Could anything have been done differently?

And I cried more as I thought of everything that the teachers had to bear this morning. Keeping students in dark corners of their classrooms quiet and calm, while internally freaking out with concern.

And then, I did something funny. I picked up my Kindle and started thinking of the novel that I’m currently reading: Stephen King’s 11-22-63, a story of a man who goes back in time to make a few changes including the assassination of President Kennedy, unsure of how those changes will impact the future. In my state of concern, I became angry at the author. Why is the goal to save the president, when the character could go back in time to change Columbine or Kent State or Virginia Tech or another school shooting? Wouldn’t that have been better than saving one person? Wouldn’t saving a school community do so much more?

I sound ridiculous, I’m sure. But my train of thought didn’t stop there.

What if we could change outcomes? What if we had the ability to go back in time and save a shooting from happening? I’m certain that every teacher, every parent, every student and every community member of every school that’s ever suffered anything as serious as a school shooting has had the same thought.

What if? they wonder.

What if I’d noticed the pain the child was suffering? What if I’d acted on that random tweet? What if I’d gone on a date with the boy two years ago when he asked me out, instead of blowing him off? What if I paid attention when he stopped hanging out with his friends? What if I hadn’t assigned him that F on his English paper? Did he really deserve detention last week?

What if?

What if?

What if?

But, we all know that we can’t change things. What we can do is snap out of our low feelings and look to the future, which I’m trying to do now. But snapping isn’t as easy for me today as it usually is. I’m stuck. I’m stuck in this realm of feeling so very badly for everyone involved; for everyone in our world because we have to live in a world where kids find no other response but to bring a gun to school and use it.

Damn it.

I’m a parent. I’m a teacher. What can I do? I can’t stuff my children in a chamber for their entire lives to keep them safe, can I?

I can’t tell them that this will never happen again.

Do I tell the kids? Is it time to let them know what a horrible place this world can be? Do I need to tell them that there are people in this world that will bring guns into schools and fill them with a fear that I didn’t know existed when I was in school?

Certainly not. But sooner or later they’re going to learn this.

And I want to be there when they do. I want to be a part of that conversation, no matter how difficult.

For now? I can cry. I can pray. I can hope beyond hope that history stops repeating itself and that children and adults will stop doing senseless things.

I can hope.

mom of 3 and wife living in the Philadelphia suburbs, Julie is a former elementary school teacher and a Public Relations manager. She is the owner/editor of Julieverse, a merchandiser with Chloe + Isabel (jewelryverse.com) and founder VlogMom and Splash Creative Media. A marketing strategist and freelance education and parenting writer by trade, Julie attempts to carve out time to enjoy playing with her kids, PTO, cooking and exercise.

© 2012, Julie Meyers Pron. All rights reserved.


  1. says

    It’s all so tragic and scary. I remember vividly being in my local gym in Japan where I was living for 2 years after college, and watching as Columbine unfolded before my eyes. I was stuck on the stair climbing machine I was on and couldn’t get off. My eyes were glued to the TV and I wanted to throw up. At the time I was teaching English and there had been a stabbing at a nearby school but nothing like Columbine. Thurston, Oregon was next and that too rattled and shook. I instantly go to the families and the fear of having your child trapped in the school. But I never really thought about it as a teacher here in the US and how that must feel for you, especially now with it being more and more common. How that must send fear, and sadness and empathy coursing through your veins. It is terrifying what is happening and the place where everyone should be safe, teachers, students, and anyone else, is a place that is sometimes a target. I hope your sadness lifts soon and the What Ifs aren’t as haunting but I know that is not so easy.

    • says

      Thank you, Shannon, for your heartfelt reply. I had just started in a new classroom and a new school 2 weeks before Columbine. What a way to start. My first staff meeting was engulfed in creating our emergency plan and our lockdowns. I had entered a world I never considered.

      When I drop my kids at school each day, I feel secure that they are in a safe place. But it’s days like this that remind you that that safe, secure feeling of a child’s school has been taken from all of us.

  2. says

    It’s horrific, sad, and something we sadly can not go back in time and change. It makes my heart ache for everyone involved. Teachers are brave beyond belief to be able to work to help children every day and wonder about the what ifs.

    It’s a tough balance, my kids practice lockdown at school, and we talk a bit about the issues, but we’ve certainly never sat down and talked to our 6 year old about details of these kinds of attacks. It’s just too much to bear for me, I don’t know how to tell them that the world isn’t as safe as our home.

    • says

      i remember Sept 11th like it was yesterday. i calmly picked both of my children up from two different schools and wouldnt let them leave my sight all day. this is why we have lockdowns. it breaks my heart that they practice lockdowns. my kids have had incidents at school where they’ve been on lock down and URGED parents not to come to the school to get them b/c the kids were safer locked in than on the outside. with me. their own mother. (sigh)

  3. Jennifer Young says

    Thank you for sharing your heart, Julie. I know what you mean. When you are stunned into a paralyzing sadness. So many worries for my children crowd my brain every day. And, then to see something like this again. It’s just so devastating.

  4. says

    as an educator; a mother; a friend; a human, this hurts on so many levels. when i saw the headline ticker scroll by i avoided it all day. i didnt wanna admit that something else bad was happening.
    When is this going to end? it makes me scared to send my kids out into the world each day and mine are OLD and they deal with this kind of stuff daily: suicide attempts, drug use, sex, bullying, etc, things that children shouldn’t have to face with their innocence.

    hug your kid a little tighter. hug a kid on the street. show someone some kindness. it might be the only kindness they get that day. it could make or break them, you never know.

  5. Andrea (PARENTise) says

    What a powerful and moving post. Thanks for sharing. This is a nightmare for me too and I can only imagine what those families are going through.

  6. says

    I was badly shaken by the Amish schoolhouse shooting. Absolutely, completely senseless. The only way I can mentally get through those sorts of things is to remember that the odds say my kids are much, much more likely to get injured in a car accident than by any other random act out there– but I put them in a car nearly every day. You can’t keep your kids in a box.

    And, Julie? Don’t ever read the book We Need to Talk About Kevin.

  7. says

    I was affected by this shooting more than the others for some reason. Maybe it is because I didn’t have children when the others were so widely publicized. I am very sad for that community. I want to keep my children home and away from the world. I don’t know when or if it is ever acceptable for a child to learn the world can be a cruel place. I don’t want them to lose their innocence. I know it is unrealistic, but it feels devastating to think that one day they will know pain. Too much for me to bare right now.

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