I was a junior in high school when 9/11 happened. By second period, the second plane had hit, and for the rest of the day, our teachers didn’t even bother trying to teach; they kept the news on while we, the students, sat in groups talking.
My father remembers where exactly he was (walking down a path outside his elementary school) when he learned JFK had been shot. I will always remember where I was when I heard about 9/11. Now, I can add the shooting in Connecticut to that list of geographical memory associations.
I was on break from teaching when I read the news. As a teacher at a school for the K-12 level, it is an amazingly awful thing to hear about anyone walking into an elementary school and opening fire.
Compound that with the fact that I work with children with a wide range of learning, behavioral, and emotional issues which includes autism.
Compound that with the fact that my husband and I want to have a baby and have been in a long struggle with whether or when that will happen, and to now have to think, “Could my child ever be shot while at school or be the shooter?”
This tragedy affects me in ways I am still trying shape. When I read about the teacher who hid her students in the bathroom and closet and then told the shooter they had gone to the gym and was gunned down, I cried because I know, just as every teacher knows, the first thing I would think to do would be to protect my students.
My other concern is that children with autism will be looked at differently because the shooter’s mental diagnosis has been released to the public. Over the four years I’ve taught, I have worked with many children and adults who have autism, none of whom had a violent streak that made me pause. Many of them were brilliant and deeply sensitive. Some were amazing writers and artists; others had strong passions for music or environmentalism. Thankfully, I’ve read at least one article that has addressed that fact that Asperger’s is not associated with violent behavior.
Adam Lanza didn’t get what he needed. He doesn’t represent all people that have autism. The CT shooting represents a need for a change. What that change needs to be, I don’t know, but something has to.
Earlier this year, my husband and I wondered whether I’d be able to get pregnant when my doctor discovered a tumor on my ovary. There is still concern that I may be infertile, but the surgery to remove it went perfectly and I’ve been assured that I should be able to get pregnant. It’s terrifying to think about bringing new life into a world where our babies might shoot other babies, where even at school where they learn the alphabet and their numbers and how to navigate the awkward waters of social interaction, they might not be safe.
Since December 14th, I’ve treated myself and those I love with tenderness. I’ve insisted on how much I love them. I’ve done things that I need to do regularly to take care of myself, which includes writing this. Sometimes I write just to try to understand the incomprehensible and to try to accept that it’s impossible for me to understand something that’s incomprehensible. I’ve started the business of “moving on,” which is something we’re all so used to now.
Let us all keep moving on, and hold each other dearly.