My sister called me first, choking up as she relayed the details and raced back to her job at the high school from an off-site meeting. The words she uttered stopped me cold: there was a school shooting in my hometown.
My dad called a few moments later. As a retired ER nurse who now works with local law enforcement, his calm manner was an eerie contrast to the snippets of heartbreaking information he could share. My mom, a retired teacher, was substitute teaching at a nearby elementary that essentially was in lockdown.
And my hometown, like so many good, theoretically safe towns before it, was all over the news.
My family moved to Noblesville, Indiana, in part to find a better school district for my sisters and me. It still boasts a picturesque old courthouse square near a quiet river, even as the seas of subdivisions roll out around it. It was a wonderful place to grow up, a place I still love to visit.
When Tragedy Hits Home
Does this tragedy mean my hometown has changed? Yes. And no.
Do I wonder how parents will move forward? If they will allow their children to return to finish the last week of the school year after a middle schooler was shot by another student in science class? Yes. And no.
As parents, it often seems all we can do is move forward.
While I talked with my dad, my youngest son pulled a pitcher of lemonade out of the fridge and dumped it on the floor. Then he slipped in it and fell on his face. I burst out laughing, and my dad stopped for a moment, then began to chuckle as I described my scene. Forced back into the present, I had to focus on the needs of my small children, even as my heart was drawn back toward home.
I am angry this happened in a place that I love, to people I love, and especially to children. I am angry it’s happened yet again—that a deadly political stalemate continues while parents and students live with such daily fears. And I am angry that safe spaces are no longer safe.
I am angry that I am again seeing the finger pointing start, that complex issues are labeled in singular and seemingly insurmountable ways.
“It’s a parenting issue,” someone says. “No, it’s mental health.” The gun debate rages on.
Can we say it’s all of the above? Can we each vow to do one small thing to make it better, rather than decide it can’t be solved and simply hope it won’t happen to us?
As I hung up the phone and mopped up my son and the spilled lemonade, I realized there are five teenagers on my block, each trying to navigate these tumultuous times. There is one boy who walks home every day from the middle school down the street. I don’t know his name, despite having lived one house away from him for years. Today, I am going to change that.
That’s what I can do, today, in a small way, with my small kids.
I can be kind, and listen, and show up, and learn people’s names and know their stories. I can teach my kids to be kind, and listen, and show up, and learn names and know stories. Because I simply must do something, today, for my old hometown. And for my new one.