"They are our most cherished members of society."
This is a quote I heard from James Alan Fox, of the Northeastern University School
of Criminology and Criminal Justice. It was stated during a television interview on
Saturday, to try and make some sense of what has happened in Sandy
Hook. It struck a cord with me, as I have not thought of children
in exactly this way before. But how true it is.
As groups of parents congregate around the various towns in Connecticut, we continue to seek answers and understanding in this horrific tragedy. Causing
harm to children is something that uniformly causes outrage. Regardless of
where we are from or what we believe in, a common fabric unifying parents is concern over the wellbeing of our kids. We all express horror and anguish over what has happened, because we all have a similar fear of what could happen. We value them above all else, and it has kept many of us up worrying at night.
I think another aspect of this which is so upsetting is that it occurred in a "safe zone", the children's school. Places such as the classroom and at home are areas where children can let their guard down. They can be themselves. They receive and respect authority. They can learn from their superiors. And they have an unflinching trust in adults. When there is a violation of this, it shatters the natural order of things that children perceive. If one takes away the perception of safety and freedom from these areas, it can change the way they grow.
A close colleague of mine lost her son in this tragedy. We had often spent our lunch hour together, trading stories about the latest things our kids had done. Many times, it was complaining. Complaining that the kids don't listen, or that they got up too early. That they didn't appreciate the dinner we took time to make for them, or that they colored with crayons on the wall when they know better. These are things that any parent understands, and we've all been there. It's the beautiful daily minutiae of raising children. Then, when we finally spoke late on the day of the attack, our conversation was different. Now we were talking about sitting in a room with other parents and police, waiting for information. We were talking about tragedy and fear, and opportunity lost.
As an oncologist, people often ask me to say something insightful in the face of suffering. We spend all day comforting other human beings and their families. We try to make sense of a horrible diagnosis, or when a treatment has not worked as we had hoped. On the phone that evening, I could not think of anything profound to say. Words didn't matter, because there was nothing one could say. All I could think of was to cling to my own little ones tighter, and appreciate what I have. Times like these should force us as parents to hit the reset button, and flush all of the background noise out. Those of us lucky enough to see our kids in front of our face should hug onto them, and let us never lose sight of what is most important.