Posted by: mydarkestplaces | January 27, 2013

Childhood events through the eyes of an adult

In a surprise to absolutely nobody (especially if you know me, read my tweets or read this blog regularly) I’m a giant, giant, giant nerd. I love to learn. I love to know things. Hence, for the past three days, I’ve been listening to a practically endless stream of podcasts/television shows.

These have hailed from the BBC, PBS and NPR. They’ve been on topics as varied as recreating legendary Viking swords to the fall of the Berlin Wall. The march of Christianity east and Islam west to the Bhaghavad Gita. The Holocaust, tattoos, and the Scopes Trial. Decyphering Mayan, fabled Incan battles, and Columbine. Say what you will about me, but you can never say that my interests aren’t varied.

Aside from learning about how the Vikings were making iron stronger than anything that would show up elsewhere in Europe for centuries. Aside from learning about how the Scopes Trial was originally intended to be a show trial to boost regional tourism. Aside from learning about how one of the most storied Incan battles – long thought to be between the Spanish and Incans – was actually an intertribal fight. It’s been interesting to listen to people who were present at an event recount events that happened in my lifetime. Events I remember as a child, but hearing the same tales now, as an adult.

Case in point.

There was a BBC Witness episode that centered around the Columbine, CO, shooting in 1999. I so clearly and distinctly remember that as a fifteen year old. I remember watching the news that night after putting the girl I babysat to bed. I remember crying at a version of “I Will Remember You” by Sarah McLachlan that had news clips playing throughout. I remember Bonny Eagle had months of emergency closures from kids calling in bomb or gun threats. I remember not being scared per se (let’s hear it for going to an all-girls high school), but being scared nonetheless. But these memories are all through the eyes of a teenager.

I’ll admit it. I haven’t given it too much thought since. I think about it and I remember it when anniversaries roll around. When another tragic school shooting happens. But it’s always thinking about it in terms of what 15 year-old Kate remembers, not what does 29 year old Kate think of the big picture of that particular tragedy.

That changed somewhat today.

The first interview was with the principal of Columbine. He discussed hearing the first gun shots and instantly thinking of his wife and kids. He talked of a pivotal moment when he saw a couple of his students walking out of the gym and realized that he had to be the one to protect them. He pulled them to safety. The second interview was with a reporter who was on the scene. He shared a tale of the crowd of worried parents’ aversion to using the words “death”, “dead”, and “killed”. The Witness producers wrapped with the principal telling of the end of that horrible day.

Once the police had cleared the school of danger, the children had been bused to a nearby school to reunite with their parents. There were tears, there were hugs, and – at the end – there remained 12 sets of parents whose children never got off that bus.

As I listened to this – in my backroom at work – while organizing knit hats and as a twenty-nine year old – I was on the verge of tears. For the past fourteen years I’ve thought about things in terms of what it would mean to me to watch my peers gunned down. To see my friends scared, literally, for their lives. To not know where or why the attack is coming from. This afternoon, I found myself thinking of what it would mean to be a parent (or aunt/caregiver/mentor/whatever) and not know where my charge is. To be a teacher or administrator and not be able to keep my students safe. To be a bystander and not be able to do anything to help.

When the idea for this post came to me, I wasn’t thinking I would be writing a eulogy to Columbine. I thought I would talk only about seeing childhood events through the eyes of an adult. Maybe I would touch upon the L.A. Riots in 1992. Maybe the trial of O.J. Simpson. But at the end of the post, end of the day, all I could think about was the principal talking about the parents who would never see their children climb off the bus again.


Responses

  1. Wow. Very powerful and well written. I can’t help but tear up at the end myself. Often I find that when someone listens to such a recount, or perhaps to the news, and reacts with genuine emotion that it’s a good thing. It’s appropriate to cry in those circumstances; the tragedy and grief involved in something like that is often whisked away by all of the ridiculousness in the media. We as a nation don’t often dwell on the grief of the real world because the media doesn’t, and as a result I think it makes us callous.

    What I’m truly trying to say here, is that the world is a very sad place on a regular basis, and I think it’s something to be spoken about and dealt with. So thank you for writing this.


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