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Monday, December 17, 2012

Difficult reentry

The passage of time dulls the acute pain, but does nothing for the persistent throbbing that replaces it.  That stay.  Any little thing can trigger it, and when it returns it's just as sharp as the day the injury first happened.  As a psych major, I understand that memory is tied to emotion and that the surroundings in which it was encoded can all serve as triggers to recall that memory; good ones as well as the bad.  The passage of time can do nothing about that either.

Today I walked Alex to school for the first time in a week, and when we got there I kissed him at least a dozen times and hugged him closer than ever.  I let him run off into his school building, watching the other children leaving their parents as well, and all I could think of was how safe school always felt, and how that feeling is broken now.  I was reminded of that day when the safety of our school was shattered too, and even though it's been 20 years, the fear rushed back.  I broke down on the way home and was never so happy that it was raining, so I could use the umbrella to shield my face from the looks of strangers.  I wouldn't begin to know what to say to them.  I wouldn't want to discuss Beamon or Judy or Jason or Mr. Brens.  I wouldn't begin to know how to explain what a former student, who was mentally ill and had not received the care he needed, felt he had to do in order to set things right. 

I couldn't explain how I was away with my track team, only to find out that a friend had been shot dead, and that so many others were still being held hostage by a man with semi-automatic weapons, which he had obtained legally.  Or how every time a fire drill, or fake bomb-threat, or fire cracker, or any other loud unexpected noise took place, we all feared for our lives all over again.  Or how we had to place memorial benches around the school grounds, and change the names of the buildings so that calling them by name would no longer evoke flash backs.  Or how the principal had to hand a diploma to a family of a deceased student, every year for the next three years.  Or how many of those sweet children grew up to be bitter, vengeful adults who think the worst of society.  Or how my school was the reason for the change to law enforcement's response policy to school violence in California.  Or how I broke down in tears every May 1st for years and years.  Or even why I sit here right now, crying my eyes out because I remember.  And I'm afraid for my own children.  And I'm afraid of what Alex will hear at school today, and I don't want him to feel like I feel right now; not ever in his life.

No one out here has ever heard of the Lindhurst school shooting.  All of my support system is 3000 miles away and I feel like an anomaly.  I want to reach out to my community for support, but I'm afraid of triggering someone else's memories of the day.  I want to speak to someone who already knows the back story so that I don't have to relive it when I try to explain why I'm so affected by Newtown.  But I can't.  So I'll share this now, and hope that it will help those who have never been personally affected by an act such as this one to understand the long term fall out.  Time took away the sharp, unbearable pain, but it left the dull throbbing ache, and I'm feeling the old injury act up right now.

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