Thursday, March 14, 2013
Three months ago today...
One empty chair standing in for twenty-six... Twenty-six families staring at an empty chair everyday of their lives. Parents, siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins grieving and mourning. Twenty-six names forever linked around a gaping void. Frayed lives hanging loose.
I don't think any of us will ever come to terms with what happened on that day. It was about 6:30 AM Seattle-time. I had just made coffee and was reading the paper when my daughter called, frantic, with the news that there was a shooter at the school and that she was driving there from work. The only thing I remember of the rest of the morning is our watching a live video on our computer screens and waiting, phones in hand. With hearts sinking into disbelief and despair.
Because of the time difference between the two coasts I had barely awakened when a dark car with black-tinted windows (never mind its real color: in my mind it was cloaked in darkness) and an even darker soul at the wheel started creeping up the school driveway. I had been to the school less than a month before when I flew back to Connecticut for Noah and Arielle's twin birthdays and I well remembered the long driveway leading to the large parking lot.
Inside the school it was probably life as usual. Some kids might not have settled down yet, several might have been still laughing and talking, teachers might have been trying to get everyone's attention, late comers might have just hung their jackets in the corridor, some might have been singing, others already reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, and it may well be that nobody noticed the dark shadow now looming at the door.
I was reading the paper and drinking coffee when the dark car brought death to my grandson on the other side of the country. Noah's parents were at work. None of us had any business to be at the school and none of us was there. Yet I can't help feeling that we failed him. We were not there for him when he needed us most. He had no one to turn to in the last seconds of his life. The thought is haunting.
It breaks my heart that we can't tell him that it was just a movie and a sick one at that, one that should never have been made, way too violent for anyone to watch, and that he should never have disobeyed and switched channels but that now it was over and he was safe.
We can't tell that to Noah or to his little classmates. We can't even say it to his sisters Arielle and Sophia who are now fully cognizant of the fact that the world as they know it may come to an end in a matter of seconds in an deafening and terrifying cacophony of bangs and screams.
When I was a kid growing up in Paris, my mom wore nylon stockings. Nylons were expensive in France (my dad - who traveled constantly for work - brought them back for her in the US). When they ripped, she didn't throw them away. She washed them carefully (by hand of course), dried them on a towel rack over the bathtub and, when dry, folded them in a little bag. When she had half-a-dozen or so in need of attention, she took them to a darner. She also brought her our socks when they wore out.
I usually went with her. I remember the darner. She worked for a glove shop which doubled as a notions store but instead of working inside the store itself as the other employees, she had her own tiny booth in the shopwindow and everybody could see her darning socks and stockings all day long over a wooden egg. We didn't have to actually walk into the store to hand her the stockings. We would just stop on the sidewalk in front of her, knock on the glass and she would open her half-window and take in the work. I can't remember if we paid her directly or if we had to go inside to the cash register. But I remember vividly the pattern of criss-crossing threads her needle wove over the hole in the sock or the ladder in the stocking. Up and down, over and under, her needle went, recreating fabric. So thin and delicate the repair could barely be seen but smooth and flexible and stronger than before the rip. I loved watching the darner work and marveled at her skill and patience.
The fabric of our lives has been violently ripped on December 14th, 2012. I have often thought of the darner since. For the younger members of our family, I wish a needle would secure the frayed threads and weave a patch so that they can look towards the future, secure in the love they shared with Noah. Never forgetting but never without hope either and maybe stronger for the grief and trauma.
But for us grown-ups, I know the hole will remain gaping where Noah ought to be. He was robbed of his future and violently taken from his family. There is no darning that over.