My kids came home Friday afternoon as always.
Excitable hopped into the minivan at parent pickup, greeting me with his typical “Hey, Pops” as he squeezed his backpack in between the captain’s chairs in the middle row.
“Did they say anything to you at school about what happened?” I asked.
I told him there had been a shooting earlier in the day at an elementary school in another part of the state.
I didn’t tell him that the school was only about 45 minutes north of us.I didn’t tell him about the 20 children only a few years younger than him that died.
Li’l Diva walked into the house about an hour later after her usual trek home from the bus stop at the top of our neighborhood. I asked how her day at middle school went. The standard “fine,” she said, as she set down her bag and went about making a snack to fuel her afternoon of music video making, courtesy of an iPhone app she’s enslaved to these days.
I asked if anyone at school mentioned Newtown.
Her math teacher had said something briefly during last period. She went on with her snack making, oblivious to the TV news reports flashing only a few feet away.
Twitter and Facebook had been pinging regularly on my computer for several hours. People, most of them those I know only through this blog or other social media, wanted to know if we were OK.
Everything is normal, I’d answer back. It wasn’t near us. We’re all fine.
We live on the opposite side of the county from Newtown. To many, this would still seem frighteningly close, but it is a distance made great by our state’s lack of cohesiveness. While Connecticut is among the nation’s smallest states even neighboring towns and cities can be almost halfway around the globe in many of our minds. Blame Yankee independence, our home rule tradition where every municipality is on its own without a county government to oversee and foster relationships, our Northeastern cynicism, our geographic limbo that divides resident loyalties between all things New York City and all things Boston, our reluctance to face the reality of slogging through traffic to travel even few miles outside our hometowns; blame you will. It all contributes to our isolation from each other on this tiny, congested slab of the country on which we make our home.
For once, I am thankful for that. So I thought.
Four days have passed. I know my children are aware. They’ve been exposed to the media coverage, purposefully at times and casually at others. There have been discussions in the schools and with their friends. (A relative of one of Li’l Diva’s classmates, it seems, may have been one of the littlest victims.) They have seen the added police presence, and wariness in their teachers’ eyes. They live a world saturated with grief and outrage and anxiety and confusion as to what happened and what shall be.
People I know or at least see online everyday who are hundreds and thousands of miles away talk about how this is like 9/11 again. Their kids are panicked, shaking and fretting. They need strength and prayer to calm and reassure them that they are safe.
Yet, in my children, I see no change. No worry. They work on school projects. Go to dance classes or sleepovers. Talk of Christmas gifts to buy or receive. Watch too much TV. Turn the music up too loud. Ignore my requests to put away dishes or pick up clothes.
Life is still as it was for them before Friday -- before the incomprehensible unfolded in a town just 35 miles away at a place called Sandy Hook Elementary School.
And I cannot quite determine whether this is good or this is bad.