It’s been one month since the tragedy that hit closest to me occurred and this is the first time I’ve been able to write about it. You see, until I write about something, I can’t fully process it. I’ve avoided processing this one because I don’t want to believe my little sleepy town could be the front page of the news and I am in denial that this is my children’s “new normal.”
On December 2nd, 2015, two terrorists walked into a meeting in San Bernardino, CA, and killed 14 people and injured 21 more. This happened a few short miles from the school I work at, the school my children attend, the school that has the word CHRISTIAN written brazenly on the exterior. I sat with my students, each with their own special need, listening to the sirens roar by, in search for this young couple, parents even, who chose to spread their hate. I felt like a sitting duck, fiercely protective of my students, and at the same time, wanting desperately to have my own two children within arms reach.
When my family was finally home, together, my husband and I listened on the scanner to see where the manhunt was. A street two blocks from our house was called out by the dispatcher. Terror crept in closer and closer to our supposed “safe haven.” Later, we were to find out that walking distance from our home, an apartment I drove by several times a day, housed items of destruction with deadly intent. Our idea of safety was overthrown, our quaint little town, desecrated.
Helicopters loomed low over our home for the next week; their constant noise was deafening and a continual reminder of what just happened. News vans filled our streets and our town which none of my Nor Cal friends could remember, was now seared in the country’s brain.
All along, no one would call it what it was: terrorism. It evoked terror in all of us. My eight-year-old boy who even at such a young age was concerned about and questioned the prior Paris attacks and Syrian Refugee crisis, asked the returning day to school whether “Bad guys would come again today.” My sixth grader came home questioning how a MOTHER could do such a thing. “What will happen to their baby Mama?” My children’s world was rocked and yet, my empathetic daughter was concerned for the child.
I wanted to be like that. I didn’t want fear and anger to consume me. But I knew I was changed. A car exhaust back firing made me duck. A lingering helicopter brought me right back. Like a mantra, I repeated “I was not given a spirit of fear, but a spirit of POWER, LOVE, and self-discipline.” (Taken from 2 Timothy 1:7)
I was reminded of the often-quoted saying of the wise Mr. Rogers “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
So I looked for the good.
As I was tucking my son into bed one night, I asked him how he was handling all of this and if he had any questions. He asked, “How did they do it?” I said, “Is that really the question you’re asking?” “No,” he replied. “WHY did they do it?” I told him there has always been evil in this world and there always will be. But there is so much good son, so much good. Look for the good.
And with that, I told him about how one man covered a fellow co-worker with his body and told her, “I’VE GOT YOU.” And he did. He died so she could live. And then I told him about the police officer who began to clear the room at the scene. The people who could walk out on their own trembled in fear that more could happen. The officer calmed them down by saying, “Try to relax everyone. I’ll take a bullet before you do, that’s for damn sure.” That is the good. Humans being human: loving, compassionate, life giving, and life preserving.
I hope you don’t have to have these discussions with your 8-year-old. I hope their childhood innocence is preserved longer than my child’s was. But even in a less dramatic situation, I hope you remember to “Look for the good.”
It’s out there. I will not let those 14 people’s lives be taken for nothing. I will not let our lives be shrouded in fear and contempt. I will look for the good and even take it one step further and I will try to be the good.