One of my high school friends instant-messaged me yesterday on Facebook, inquiring why I'd been so obviously quiet about the Sandy Hook tragedy. I told him I was still processing it... then I unloaded a lot of my "processing" over the course of a few short messages.
I've been thinking about the first responders. Having a lot of buddies in law enforcement and a close friend who has worked in the coroner's office, I've heard their stories of other crime scenes. Those stories pale in comparison to the horror they must have come upon.
I've been thinking about the family members of the survivors and their sense of relief of finding their loved ones safe and sound.
I've been thinking about the victims themselves and their last few moments of life.
I've thought about their family and friends as they found out the horribly unthinkable news.
But mostly, I've been thinking about the dads. Especially the fathers of the little girls who were killed. Most of us naturally use context to make sense of a traumatic event; I'm no different. I'm the father of two girls who mean the world to me. When a little girl is born, there's an unspoken, unwritten, yet innately understood relationship: she's the princess, I'm her prince, and my job is to protect her from the dragons.
The dragons take on different forms. During infancy and toddlerhood, dragons resemble baby-proofing against outlets, stoves, household cleaners, over-zealous children, and dog-slobber. When our daughters are mobile and talking, we actually can play prince and princess with them. I personally have slain my daughter's stuffed alligator-posing-as-a-dragon no fewer than 4,186 times (all successfully, I might add). Dragons also look like traffic and stranger danger and stupid boys next door during these innocent childhood years.
As they age, the dragons change as does our role. In order to fight the dragons successfully, we begin to teach them to fight against them without us. But we're always there in the background with our sword drawn... just in case. Homework, boys, cell phones, grades, and driving... all dragons.
That's why this tragedy sucks the wind out of me. These men, these fathers, these DADDIES... were all cheated out of protecting their daughters from an unthinkably evil dragon. I've done over seven years of elementary school drop-offs. The first day of school is always rough, and the unknown is a dragon in and of itself. But to have this happen. It's not the way the fairy tale was supposed to end. Sure, the other family members of all victims, boys and girls, are suffering in their own ways. But to the dads of daughters who have been to the gates of parental hell, there aren't words to describe how sorry I am. You were their princes, their knights in shining armor. And I am so sorry that on this one fateful morning, the dragon got away with this heinous act.
It's all still too raw to think about - even from hundreds of miles away. Just too surreal. But to the dads, you have my sympathy, my respect, and a piece of my heart. God bless you during your time of sorrow.