Numb for Newtown

I'm writing this today at our church as Phoebe rehearses with the dozens of other children for their Christmas program tomorrow.

Aside from the usual annoyances of Phoebe hanging all over me and refusing to put on her costume and Faye waking Kates and I much too early for a Saturday morning, it's been a good day so far. I grudgingly rolled out of bed about around 6 to rescue Faye and ended up cuddling with her on the couch; she went right back to sleep in my arms. The morning continued with Phoebe and I playing a game of hide and seek and us piling on Kates in our bed. Laughing and enjoying our time as a family.

And through it all, reminders of the awful tragedy in Newtown. Twenty children taken away from their parents. Seven more adults killed. Their lives changed forever. They'll never again experience the kind of morning I've had the privilege of having.

Yesterday was our winter commencement day at the university. I was settling into the press box of the arena around noon and preparing for the ceremony when I learned of the tragedy. I had logged onto Facebook -- because that's where we get all of our news these days, of course -- and saw a colleague's post ...
As I just left a bell ringing for a student who was tragically taken 3 months ago today because of a senseless act of violence and read the horrific reports out of Connecticut, all I can say is "why?" Praying for comfort for so many people right now!
She was referring to the bell ringing ceremony – a tradition carried out when one of our students passes – we had yesterday morning for the September death that is still affecting our little community.

And then another post ...
Following the news and I could throw up. Praying for all the families - I can't even imagine.
What the heck is going on?

So I logged onto Twitter to start putting the pieces together. A school shooting in Connecticut. The details were still somewhat sketchy, but my heart sunk deeper the more I read.

Words like awful, sick, evil, heartbreaking, shock, horror, unspeakable and unimaginable kept appearing. And so close to Christmas.

Within minutes, the arena was filling with joyous the family members and friends of our students, eager to watch the graduation ceremony. Traditionally, commencement day is one of my favorite days of the school year. But the news of the shooting changed my mindset completely. It was surreal. … In my mind, I compared the emotional toll it was taking on me to the emotions I felt amid the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

I kept thinking of Phoebe, and Kates, and their school, and how devastated I’d be if they were taken away from me so suddenly. … As morbid as it sounds, I’ve seen and experienced enough trauma in my news reporter career and beyond that the thought, “What if I never see them again?” passes through my mind every morning as we say our goodbyes and I see Kates and Phoebe off to school. Or when I leave Faye at the daycare. I always try to make sure I cherish those last giggles and never take anything for granted.

I had trouble paying close attention to the ceremony once it was underway, instead paying closer attention to the social media updates scrolling across the screen on my TweetDeck.

There were posts about President Obama tearing up during a news conference addressing the shooting

And reports that the shooter first murdered his mother, a staff member at the school, before targeting the children …

And more social media reaction by friends and colleagues …
The fact that someone wiped an entire classroom off this earth is sickening. We live in a cruel world. I'm going to hug my son a little tighter tonight, count my blessings and pray for those in pain

I feel physically ill right now trying to imagine my babies being taken from me. My heart breaks for all of the families in Connecticut.

It's supposed to be about cookies, milk, construction paper, and naps. Not being gunned down just for being there.
About midway through the commencement ceremony, Kates texted me with the news that Faye’s daycare called to report she wasn’t feeling well. Kates picked up the girls and took Faye to the doctor, where she was diagnosed with an ear infection. … The silver lining in that news was that it got Kates and I out of attending her school’s Christmas party last night. Given the day’s turn of events, suddenly the last thing I wanted to do was go to a Christmas party surrounded by elementary school teachers where a main topic of conversation was bound to be what occurred din Connecticut. I wanted nothing more than to be home with my family.

The commencement ceremony ended and I waited for the platform party and graduated to file out of the arena. Then I packed up by things and headed back to my office. I worked as fast as I could to draft our news release about the commencement ceremony, gather all of the related multimedia and uploaded it to our website, finally leaving my office around 6 last night.

As I pulled up our driveway and drove into the garage, another wave of emotion hit me, and I got the feeling I might break into a sob the moment I saw Kates and our girls sitting just inside the door. … I took a deep breath and kept my composure. When I stepped inside, Phoebe flashed me a huge grin, taking a break from her Disney Junior watching, and Kates was sitting on the couch with Faye.

Several minutes passed before Kates and I were could step into another room and acknowledge the tragedy outside of Phoebe’s earshot. Eventually we settled into our nightly routine of eating supper and getting the girls in bed.

Then, as Kates and I had the living room to ourselves, she asked about watching the news. Being the news junkie I am, I record the nightly news programs and watch them each night before going to bed. Last night, I had no interest in watching the television news coverage – simply because of television’s habit of sensationalizing these types of stories. There was still so much unknown, and I didn’t think I could take the speculation (Ken Tucker's commentary is dead-on … So is The Onion's, coming from a harsher point of view.)

But Kates insisted and we watched the NBC Nightly News broadcast.

At the end of the day, I have no profound opinions or observations of the shooting. And I won’t go off on a rant about gun control or treatment for the mentally ill. Like everyone else, I, too, am trying to come to grips with the whys and hows of yet another shooting spree taking innocent lives.

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