I've written several posts about my trip home last week, but none of them feel right, so none of them have been published. To say that it's hard to talk about my feelings doesn't begin to cut it. The tangled, overwhelming mess that has its grip on my heart right now is impossible to put into words. Yet I feel compelled to share, at least a little, of what I'm going through right now.
Last week Scott and I went "home" to Connecticut. I was born in Maine, and lived in New York for a little while when I was a kid. Three years or so ago we moved to Austin. Otherwise, I spent most of my life in Fairfield County, Connecticut. My family lived in Monroe, then Bethel. After my folks moved away, I shared my first grown-up place with my sister in Sandy Hook. It was a little white house, across the street from Sandy Hook Elementary.
Sandy Hook was one of the best places I ever lived. Our house was pretty beat up, but I felt at home there. When I think of that house, I think of warmth, safety, and youth. I think winters buried under snow, dewy spring grass, lobster-fests at the fire station, and rubber duck races in the town center. I had a rough childhood, so neither Monroe nor Bethel ever felt quite right to me. Sandy Hook was the first place in Connecticut that I ever really felt at home. Homes have a way of sticking in your heart.
We landed in Hartford on Tuesday, and spent the week visiting family, kissing babies, hugging nieces, nephews and god-kids. Between the two of us, Scott and I have five nephews, one niece, and three god-children. My best friend also has little ones that we love dearly, and have known from babyhood. These are the kids whose presents filled our suitcases, who we mail stickers and halloween cards to, who light up my life, and fill my heart. I love them all so much. All but one of them go to school within twenty miles of Sandy Hook Elementary. The other, just a handful of miles further.
They say that this kind of thing can happen anywhere, and I always thought that I understood what that meant. I don't have any way of really describing how it feels when "anywhere" is where you are, or where the little ones that you love are. All I can say is that it's different. It changes everything, changes you.
I was driving through Newtown, on my way to visit my office when the news reports started coming in. By the time I arrived at our office in Oxford, the nightmare had begun. So many of my friends and co-workers live in Sandy Hook and Newtown, so many with little children. While the rumors came in from Facebook, texts, and phone calls we held our breath. Too soon the nightmarish facts were confirmed, worse than any rumor, breaking our hearts.
9/11 happened just sixty miles from where I was sleeping in my bed. That shook me, of course, but not like this. Nothing has ever made me feel like this before. Words like grief, fear, and horror come to mind, but they don't paint the whole picture. Nothing can. I'm grateful that my own loved ones are OK, but it was just too damned close. A twenty mile twist of fate saved the lives of the most dear, precious people I know, and I'm having a really hard time coming to terms with that.
I know that what I'm feeling pales in comparison to others. All I can think is if this is what I'm going through... god help everybody else.
I could go on. I could babble for hours. I could cry forever.
Instead, I'll just ask you to please, be kind. Be thoughtful. Be good to each other, because there is so much powerful bad to fight against. If this world is every going to get better, we have to change it with every word we speak, and every action we take.
And we have to change it, because the alternative is simply too awful to live with.