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Images We Can't Escape

Teresa M. Pelham

Mommy Minute

3:34 PM EST, December 15, 2012

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My mind drifts from one thing to another following the Newtown school shooting, but keeps coming back to the horrific image of parents being required to look at photographs of their beautiful, dead children in order to make a positive identification.

I drift to and from thoughts of love, hugs, guns, mental illness, teachers, kindergartners, teddy bears, holding hands, empty beds, bad people, amazing people and ruined lives.

I think about these things, try to reassure myself and my boys, and then the image returns: Acknowledging that yes, that lifeless baby is mine is by far the worst possible thing a parent could ever have to do.

Experts are offering advice on what to say to our kids to make them feel safe. But I don’t think anything is really going to make any of us feel safe.

Schools do everything they can to keep our kids safe. Over the past nine months, I have been a visitor at several dozen elementary schools just like Sandy Hook, doing author visits for my children’s book. Every single door at every single school -- from New Britain and New Haven to Simsbury and Avon -- is locked during the school day. But no matter what we do, we will never be safe from a bad person with a gun.

The line of cars at my middle dude’s school was twice as long as usual yesterday afternoon. Parents apparently needed to see their kids just a few minutes earlier than the bus would have taken them home. As I waited, I wasn’t thinking about what I’d say. I just wanted to see my freckle-faced boy. He hopped down the hill and was all smiles, trying to tell me a story about something that happened in gym class.

I lost it as soon as he got in the car. I cried and told him something really bad had happened. The experts would have been disappointed.

I told him that some moms and dads would go home that night without their babies, and that I really couldn’t explain why this awful thing happened. Maybe the violent video games and movies that glorify gun violence have made young people numb, I suggested. I told him that I love him more than he’ll ever know, and that I planned to annoy the heck out of him with extra hugs.

Even now, as more and more images make their way into my head -- a brave principal, distraught police officers, unopened Christmas presents -- I keep coming back to those parents. They’ll never again watch their angelic children sleep or run or skip rope.

I hope those hurting parents can somehow find peace and that they can feel the love we’re all sending their way.