My eyes open.
I see the same ceiling I’ve looked at each morning for all these years.
It doesn’t look any different.
In my peripheral vision, I see my husband curled up next to me. He has the blanket over his head.
I’m exhausted. I lay here so still. I can hear my breath. And within seconds it all starts to seep into my memory. My life is forever changed now. My life will never, ever be the same.
I try so hard to stop those visions and thoughts from coming in. They simply don’t compute. This is all a dream and soon I will reawaken and all will be exactly how life was when I woke up in this same bed with this same man lying next to me 24 hours ago.
Wow…24 hours ago. How can life actually change that much in such a short span of time. Well actually an even shorter span of time, but right now I can only see this parameter.
So now what do I do. I feel paralyzed that not one muscle can move. Like my body is sinking in to this mattress inch by inch and soon I’ll be swallowed up. Maybe that would be good…this pain that is setting in is going to be too much to bear…and I know it.
My mind cannot comprehend how a text could change my life. How a simple ‘school lockdown’ message would irrevocably move me from being a person who was out Christmas shopping one day, to a frantic, shock-laden, out-of-my-mind-with-fear woman who did not have my child at the end of the day.
A woman who dutifully brought her child to a good suburban school, nurtured and care for that child, sacrificed financially for that child, had all the hopes and wishes for a perfect future for that child and now this.
This was not happening.
This couldn’t be happening.
This must not be happening because I can’t get my head around this and just the thought of it all is too overwhelming, too shocking and moves me into a place where the world I controlled could no longer be controlled and this was too scary a place to live.
This stuff happens to other people. People out there. Wherever ‘there’ is, it’s just not here. It doesn’t happen to people I know and it definitely doesn’t happen to people like me. And it definitely doesn’t happen to people where I live. I’m safe, right? We’re safe, right? How the **** could this be happening.
I jump from bed and run down the hall. Surely she’s in bed under the covers not wanting to get up for school.
The door is open. The blankets on her bed in disarray. I can’t remember what is happening until it occurs to me the scene from overnight.
I was the one who grabbed that pillow. I was the one who wailed on her bed. I was the one who begged God to not take her and demanded he return her immediately. I was the one who wouldn’t leave her room without the loving encouragement of my husband.
What is to become of us. He has been my rock. He has sustained us financially through all these difficult years. He was the one I waited for at the school to shore me up.
I ran from the car to the school to get as close as they would let me. I waited and waited and waited. I needed him by my side. He told me he’d get there as soon as he could.
I saw children, police, teachers, emergency workers all around. It was so chaotic. No one was sure of anything.
All I wanted was my child. That’s all I wanted.
I started to see the reunions of mothers and children, fathers and children, parents and children. I was longing for my child, but all the while keeping a hopeful attitude as I saw all these intense embraces I waited for my turn.
I waited for my turn.
And my husband appeared and his love and embrace gave me further strength to wait. He was with me now. It would all be ok.
We tried to update each other on how we both learned. We held each other close in the cold with the brightness of the day glaring our view at times.
We saw the police with guns, got various reports about the gunman. It made me catch my breath. We didn’t know what to think. All we could envision was when she’d be safely in our arms again, just as we witnessed with other families all around us.
And we waited and waited and waited and waited.
But our turn didn’t come.
It didn’t come.
It just didn’t come…
She should have been out by now. She should have appeared. We should have been told something by now.
But she didn’t and we hadn’t and as nightfall came about, my hope dwindled and it became clear, very clear that she wasn’t coming back to our arms. She wasn’t going to be jumping up into her father’s arms like she always did. She wasn’t.
There was nothing left to do. The police gave us as much information as they could. The bodies needed to be identified and until then no confirmation could come.
But we knew.
And my blood seemed to run out of my body as I stepped foot in the door of my home. I had no more energy. I had no more strength.
The tears I held back for all those hours overwhelmed me. I collapsed at my husband’s feet holding on tightly to his ankles. How could this be happening.
He sat on the floor with me and he took me in his arms and cradled me as we both wailed.