I've been reading a lot of books about school shootings lately. I've read fictional stories built from the author's wildest imagination and thorough research. I've read memoirs from personal experiences tied to unimaginable sadness, solitude and heartache. I've read highly researched documentary-style accounts by people who lose themselves in the minutiae of these horrific events, trying to make sense of them in minute-by-minute analyses so that maybe, in some way, we can shed light on the next one before it happens.
I've become somewhat obsessed. My husband and friends ask me why. Isn't it depressing? Isn't it scary? Isn't it sad? And my answer is always, yes. It is depressing and it is definitely scary and above all, it's sad. Really, really sad. But I read them and keep reading them because I think in a weird way, I believe that if I educate myself on them, if I learn more about the shooters and their families and the victims and their strength...I can somehow be prepared if it were to ever happen in my world.
Today is Valentine's Day. And in a town in Florida, outside of Miami, there are hundreds of moms and dads in absolute turmoil. Kids who have seen terror that they could never imagine. First responders who will be forever changed. Teachers and administrators who will ask themselves why over and over for every day of the rest of their lives.
Valentine's Day will never be the same for them. It will never not bring back memories of today. Of the day their lives changed forever. Of the day that love took on a whole new meaning that had nothing to do with the holiday or the hearts or the flowers.
I have it all wrong. I could never be prepared for that to happen in my world. I can read 100 books on the topic. I can try to understand it, to analyze it, to imagine it. But I would never be prepared. I would never be able to truly know what those families and that community is feeling today. What they will feel for every Valentine's Day that lays ahead of them. How they will never look at a red heart the same way again. I could never be prepared for that.
So today, I am writing instead of reading. I am urging you (again) to support gun control and mental health resources. I am asking you to write to your representative or join MOMS Demand or find a local organization you believe in and volunteer your time. And I am not going to tell you to hug your kids a little harder tonight. Because I know you're already going to do that. You're going to love on them and kiss them and be so thankful they are home safe and sound today. Today of all days. You're going to shower them with love. I know you will and I hope you use that love as a motivating force that moves you into action, too.