The 911 tapes of last year’s tragedy in Sandy Hook are out. Especially up here in Connecticut, it’s causing quite a stir. Folks are saying that it is going to open up the wounds of the families affected.
I have no idea whether it will or it won’t because I simply refuse to read, listen to, or watch anything related to the Sandy Hook incident unless it is the idea of a victim’s family member (like the Vicki Soto 5K I ran last month.) The same way I wouldn’t buy a book or a video game that exploited the victims, I will not give any media outlet the courtesy of my click/view/whatever. Because that’s essentially giving them money in today’s world.
People keep talking about how the tapes and reports shouldn’t have been released. But we live in the United States of America and that’s not how life works here, even for the tiniest of victims and their grieving families. I wouldn’t want to live in a place where we couldn’t find out if the first responders to the incident did what they were supposed to. Of course, I don’t want to be the one to do the checking up on them, either.
Every time I think about those tiny victims and their guardians who became victims too, I get beyond choked up. And my gut wants to read more and find out more.
I don’t know if it’s because I believe that reading the experiences will some how allow me to take some pain away from those families. Or that I’ll learn something that will help prevent this from happening to me. Or maybe it’s just so awful that I feel like I have to endure learning about it.
Maybe I’m looking to see how those parents are doing, can they actually survive this? As a parent of a small child, you walk around with your heart now outside of you. It’s now inside a careless, fragile little body. If you are a parent of multiple small children, your heart is then divided up amongst several equally irreverent but adorable keepers. Do parents exist after they learn their own heart has shattered along with its tiny host? Is that what I’m looking to learn about- the unimaginable?
I used to do the same thing for every sick child on Facebook or in the news. I would reread and then pray and when the unthinkable happened, I’d go back and read it again and cry. And then I’d find more places to read more about it and I read those a couple of times, too.
It’s kind of like pushing on a bruise to see if it still hurts. It always does.
Actually, I have no idea why I would WANT to read any more than one item about any of these situations. Once is enough to say the prayer, to send the good vibes to parents in need. To learn the facts of a gruesome tragedy well enough to voice an opinion that will shape public policy.
But the rest, the unthinkable- is just that. I don’t think any of it is something you can or should try to prepare for.
Usually, after a good bit of reading the items I’m referring to, I want nothing more than to hold my children and tell them that I feel so lucky to have them.
The other day, though, I realized that with that luck comes great responsibility. Along with thanking God for my beautiful, healthy, children, I have an obligation to teach them to be great citizens of this world. And sometimes that means doing a little more than holding them and telling them I love them. Which means I need to stop thinking about the unthinkable and start thinking about the future.
So, I have to get off the phone/computer/TV sites/channels that are shoving these stories down our throats to get more views/clicks/listeners/viewers. (It’s like the “Facebook Emotional Porn” Rachel Hayter writes about in her post, “I’m sick of Facebook emotional porn.” Same concept- it’s so awful you just feel guilty ignoring it.)
I have to get involved in my community. I have to get to know my neighbors and the children my children know so that things like “isolation” are less likely. I have to research ways for my kids to play outside safely and find new places to take walks and eat healthy and help people and all of that good stuff that comes from thinking about the best possible future for my kids, not the worst.
More importantly, I have to give my children the confidence and discipline to go out and do the same for themselves.
I don’t think any parent out there who has endured the worst would disagree that having your children alive and well means you have an important task ahead of you. One you’re darn privileged to have.
The media knows about this gut obligation to “know” the worst about the worst, though. The pushing of the bruise. And they’re going to want our clicks and views in the coming weeks. They’re going to use a date that is nothing more than a date, and they’re going to call it an “anniversary” and use it as an excuse to publish a whole lot of emotional porn that some of us may feel guilty avoiding.
I say we let the guilt go and not give the media the honor of the advertising dollars that might result from the hoopla. If the families do make any specific requests, don’t worry, that same media will be glad to voice them. And we should listen, then, because they may need us.
But they might not request anything but peace.
If our emotional wounds need closure, or just a distraction, let’s talk to each other and take care of each other and do what we need to do to heal, without the sensationalized spectacle. That way, the people have Newtown will have the space to do the same.
Because I don’t think any date can measure the time that has passed for a family that has endured the unthinkable.