Gunman. Elementary school. Death toll rising.
The news of Sandy Hook was paralyzing. Anger, sadness, and confusion bubbled into my mouth until I could not speak. I wanted to scream. I wanted to cry. I wanted to leave work – to grab my kids – to be home.
As the tragedy of the moment continued to stream across my computer, like a horrific movie script impossibly true, a stinging email from the principal of my daughter’s school fell into my inbox: “Due to today’s events, it is a great time to review our school policies and procedures for safety … ”
It’s a great time? What is happening?
I closed my eyes.
The next patient in the office was ready to be seen. I grabbed my computer, my chart, my pen. I lifted myself against a seemingly increased gravitational pull.
I opened the exam room door.
There she was. Beaming. A beautiful 4-month-old baby who stopped to look at me when I stood at the threshold. She smiled. She laughed and cooed. Her parents bragged with pride. She giggled through her exam.
I was so thankful for her. In the depths of the day, she was a light. Personified.
When a horrific event occurs, it is hard to say it was unpreventable. As loving parents, we want to find a solution to keep our children unfailingly safe. We intellectualize the event; finding patterns, research, evidence, data. We change our habits. We think of the “what ifs” with impeccable detail.
I believe this analysis creates policies and procedures that help protect and shape all people in our communities.
Does gun and ammunition reform need to happen? Absolutely. Does careful evaluation need to be done in order to identify and actively help the mentally ill people in our communities? Undoubtedly. Does access to mental health professionals need to be improved? Yes.
But, I don’t know if we could have ever prepared for – or prevented – what happened in Sandy Hook.
Ultimately, I believe unexpected tragedies will continue to occur. And the thought of keeping our children impenetrably safe from evil is an impossible burden for any parent to carry.
So, what can we do?
We can talk with our kids. We can pray. We can pay respects. We can financially give. We can advocate. We can petition. We can raise our voices for reform and policy.
We can set an example for our children through moral teaching. By being living examples of forward-looking actions. By empowering them with the security of their family. The knowledge of helpers. The vision for goodness. The hunger for justice.
As we grieve for the victims of Sandy Hook and wait for political and legislative change, we cannot be paralyzed by the unfair inhumanity witnessed by our Nation.
We cannot live in fear.
I saw things Friday afternoon in clinic that were beautiful. I saw the light in a child powerful enough to briefly lift the atrocious actions of the day.
It is this light that will continue to fuel my passion for the children I serve. It will energize my honest desire for health, security, and love in the families I care for. This light will help me advocate for solutions to protect our Nation’s children. It will allow me to enthusiastically live for the two children in my home who need to feel safe, and need a promise of a future worth caring for. Light will help us to heal.
We can choose to see light.
We need to. We have to.
Natasha Burgert is a pediatrician who blogs at KC Kids Doc.