A mourner attends a candlelight vigil at Ram's Pasture to remember shooting victims, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012, in Newtown, Conn. A gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on Friday and opened fire, killing 26 people, including 20 children. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
Last night I received an e-mail from my daughter’s daycare about the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. It outlined their emergency preparedness and evacuation plans, as well as a new “age appropriate lockdown drill…that will become as familiar as our classroom naptime routines.” My daughter is 2 years old. This is not the world I want for her.
Logically, I know I shouldn’t be afraid for Layla. The chance of her being hurt by violence like the kind visited upon Newtown is incredibly small. But logic doesn’t mean much when it comes to the fear of losing our children.
When I was pregnant, an early blood test indicated that my daughter might have a serious chromosomal abnormality that would have meant early death, if she survived the pregnancy at all. As I waited on the results of my amniocentesis, my husband and relatives consoled me with statistics—she had about a one in twenty chance of having the disorder, so numbers were on my side. But to me it felt like 50-50—either she was going to be fine or she wasn’t.
That’s how I imagine a lot of us feel now. How many of the parents in Newtown ever thought that their beloved first graders would be the unlucky, tragic few? Either your child will be fine or they won’t. It’s a terrible, out-of-control, heart-stopping fear.
It very well may be the fear of a parent—I don’t remember feeling like this over past national tragedies. Maybe it’s because I’m older, maybe it’s because I have a daughter. Maybe it’s simply because it’s children—so many children—who were the bulk of the victims. All of us, parents or not, instinctively feel how unnatural it is to lose babies in this unspeakably horrible way.
When President Obama gave his speech at the vigil in Newtown last night, I was glad that he repeated the saying likening parenthood to having your heart walking around outside of your body. It’s a quote I’ve thought of often since having my daughter—an especially apt sentiment when thinking about the incredible lack of control we have over what will happen to our children.