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A state away.

There was a weariness that permeated into the very depths of my bones as I drove. As if my very marrow ached. Everything ached. I had spent the day cuddled up in bed with my daughter in intensive care. As we flipped through the channels trying to find something to occupy her mind as because was tethered to her hospital bed by a series of chords, oxygen tubes, and an IV. The images confused me. A shooting. Children. Connecticut.

The news had gotten worse and worse as the day went on. I held my daughter and listened to the whirl of the oxygen as it forced it’s way into her lungs. Each breath was labored, but it was there. She was alive. She was breathing.  When she had finally fallen asleep, I moved away from her so as to not wake her as my body began to shake with sobs.

Back in the car, my son piped up from the backseat of the car. “Mom, what happened today?” He had seen a blurb on TV when Lance was getting them packed up to switch me places at the hospital. Now all three boys ears perked up. I didn’t know how to tell them. I didn’t want them to know they lived in such a world. I did not want them to be afraid. I also wanted them to hear it from me.

“Something happened. A very bad man hurt a lot of people” “Where?” “In Connecticut.” “Like, by US Connecticut?!”  “Yes. Just a state away.” We all cried together.  Then, amidst the sorrow, this quote came up over and over on Facebook:

Mr. Rogers, look for the helpers

I read the quote to my kids and told them about all of the “helpers.” The principal who ran out to protect her students, the aide to the little boy who had autism, who shielded him with her body. The police officers. The city of Newtown. I showed them the candlelight vigils across the country and we joined the millions of others who prayed for that little town.  I showed them pictures of the Hells Angel’s who made a human wall so that the vile group of well-known protestors could not get through to picket at the funerals. There were helpers.

Yesterday my children came in from playing outside on the first day of their spring break. I had been pacing in front of the TV with my phone in my hand. I had heard back from my Boston friends,  and I was waiting to hear news of the rest of the people from my church who had gone up.  I tried to shoo them out again, but didn’t get them out in time. They saw the image of the explosions..  “Mom! What happened?”  I found the same words I had just said in December.  “Something happened today. A very bad man hurt a lot of people.” “Where?” “Boston.” “Like, by US Boston?!” “Yes. Just a state away.”

Again, the quote above started to filter through my feed. I read it again to my children. I told them about how people ran toward the explosions rather than away from them.  How police officers, paramedics, and other people ran to help save the lives of others, even when they didn’t know if it was the end of the explosions.  How people who had been in the race had ended up running to the hospitals to give blood.  I told them about how I had tried to add our home to a list of places for people to stay who were displaced by the bombings, and when I did, the list already had hundreds of people willing to do the same.  There were helpers.

Our little Rhode Island is sandwiched between Connecticut and Massachusetts. There is something about having these events happen right in my back yard. It’s not a world away like it felt with 9-11 (we were living in Utah at the time). Not that proximity lessens or increases the amount of sorrow or horror anyone feels because of these events, it’s just a little surreal that they’ve happened so close.  Sandy Hook Elementary School is just like my kids’ school. Same size. Same kind of community.   Boston is one of my most favorite places. Boston is one of those cities that when you mention it to people they have an intense, visceral emotion. Everyone who has ever been there LOVES Boston.  It’s a city that seems to hug you as you walk in. It’s filled with terrible drivers and wonderful people.

I wish I could say that talking about all of the wonderful people, all of the helpers, helped to lesson the pain we feel for the families who are hurting now. I wish that it made what happened the least bit okay. It does not. I wish there were never a need for people to have to prove how good they are through extraordinary acts in unfathomable situations.  I wish the world didn’t feel like it has slipped of its axis again. But it does give hope to silence the fear my children are feeling. The fear I’m feeling.  I’m grateful for the helpers who give my children hope that this world is still good. That people are still kind. I’m grateful for the acts of heroism we’ve been watching over and over again. First in Connecticut, now in Boston.  Both, just a state away.

4 thoughts on “A state away.

  1. My poor husband is trying to act like everything’s okay, but I know he’s having a hard time processing it. He was at the finish line with my sister and some friends when the bombs went off. A good friend of ours had just finished the race and they thought he had been killed. It turns out he was fine; he had run over to help a man whose leg had been blown off. Absolute chaos. Meanwhile, I was at my mom’s house with my son (who couldn’t stop vomitting because of a stomach bug), catching vomit in a towel. A terrible day for everyone, all around.

  2. Every year South Bend police officers like Nick McKinley volunteer to be one of Santa’s helpers, delivering gifts to families who wouldn’t otherwise have presents to unwrap on Christmas day.

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