Monday, December 17, 2012

What if?

My fifth grade teacher had set up a tv on a cart so we could see the Challenger launch. Moments later, we saw strange caterpillar-shaped clouds in the sky, and we knew all the astronauts were dead. I remember staring at the tv, unable to process what I had just seen.

Honestly, I almost didn't include this photo, because it still makes me sick.
I remember Mrs. Ramos turning off the tv and quickly changing the subject - time for math or something - and pointedly ignoring what we had just witnessed.

Thinking about it 27 years later, I still get tense. I have only watched live coverage of a shuttle launch once since then, and my stomach was in knots the whole time.

What if?

What if that improbable, horrible thing happens again?

What if more astronauts fell from the sky before our eyes? How would their families feel? How would the modern equivalent of Christa McAuliffe's students cope with the loss of their teacher?

This morning I got all teary putting Ryan on the school bus.

What if?

What if something horrific happened during the school day and this was the last time I would ever see him?

Obviously the odds are greatly in our favor that he will come home as usual, throw his coat on the floor, begrudgingly pick it up and hang it in the closet, and run in quick circles around the house.

But what if?

As the mother of a seven-year-old in the state of Connecticut, last Friday's unspeakable tragedy hit way too close to home. It was too easy to imagine being one of the parents in the school parking lot waiting to be reunited with my first-grader.

As the mother of a child with special needs, I tried to imagine how he would react if his school were under siege. It's unlikely he would be able to follow his teacher's instructions to remain still and quiet. I imagine his talking/shouting/singing/wiggling would draw the gunman's attention and doom his entire class.

If he were a witness to a shooting, would he understand what he was seeing? Would he be able to communicate to me what he had seen? Would he be able to tell us how he felt about it?

Scariest of all, what if my own child suffered from violent psychotic episodes? How would I prevent him from hurting people? How would I be able to continue to love him if he did? This part is way outside my ability to imagine - I recommend Christina Shaver's recent post on the subject.

My heart aches for all the families affected.

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