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Amy Pybus: Our children, our Second Amendment

I’ve heard empty. Helpless. Devastating. A mother’s hell. Unspeakable. Overwhelming grief. A nation in mourning.

Another word is Newtown. Just eight miles from where I grew up. Where we used to go to dollar movies at the town hall. Where family friends still live. Where one of their sons attends Sandy Hook Elementary School.

My cousin reported his friend’s son was fine after he saw him being taken away from the school by his mother on TV. I felt relief, and pain and confusion, and still couldn’t comprehend it. Couldn’t even imagine that I would ever see such a thing in my life.

At our school pickup that afternoon, the same look of shock, relief and disbelief was on the face of every parent. We all smiled and waved a little longer. We have our differences and battles but we are a community, and we all understand and fear the horror we’ve witnessed.

A few days later, getting over this news is still difficult. Every time I hear my 9-year-old’s voice say “Hi Mommy!” in his cheery way, I feel pain. And relief, and guilt for being relieved that my child is with me and safe. We shouldn’t have to feel this way.

One father in Newtown was quoted as saying that you spend so much of your time trying to protect your children — look both ways before you cross the street, wear your helmet — and then this happens. How do you prepare them?

You shouldn’t have to. Perhaps this is why parents are so desperate to provide protection against those things we can control. We realize there are so many variables in the world that we can’t foresee, let alone prepare for. No one has the luxury of saying “that will never happen here” anymore. And the lockdown drills at school go on.

As parents we thought 9/11 would be the worst of our problems. We have to keep them away from terrorist targets. Now we live with the knowledge that their schools are targets.

Our superintendent called in the evening to say that our schools have safety protocols and secure doors. But we all know anyone who wants to get in will find a way. That was evident before Newtown.

We knew that on Monday, when it was time to send them back to school, we had to do it. We sent them out the door with the usual hopes for their safety and well-being, and then added extra prayers. It was a leap of faith, or act of denial, but we did it.

On Friday afternoon, the child advocacy groups quickly sent out suggestions on talking to your kids about what happened in Newtown. But that evening I told my son I wasn’t ready to talk, not until I could make sense of it. Will I ever?

It has been like losing a loved one. You cry at any moment, and you try to process the information and accept it, and sometimes you even manage to forget. You rest and sleep. Then you wake up and remember what happened and feel the loss all over again.

Beyond the tragedy itself, the worst part for me has been hearing the immediate reaction of so many people (including media outlets) that say “this isn’t the day to talk about gun control.” I’m sorry. Today is absolutely the day to talk about gun control.

I just saw the movie “Lincoln,” which relates the fight for passage of the 13th Amendment. Lincoln changed the Constitution in the face of much opposition, without even the full support of his own party and cabinet, amid a long and bloody war.

Our war has been fought on the battlefields of Columbine. Virginia Tech. Newtown. And too many other places to list. Its victims are children. Today is the day to do more than just talk about gun control. Yes we can do something about the Second Amendment.

And this week remains a time for prayers, and mourning, and trying to get over the feelings of helplessness and dread. I know a whole nation in mourning is not enough to make those families feel less shock and pain in the coming weeks, months, years.

At this time of year, when friends and family are reaching out with cards, gifts and messages of love and community, the loss feels even more unbearable. Our biggest holiday, which is all about the delight and magic of youth, will be missing too many of its children. It is a loss for us all.

Amy Pybus of Easthampton writes on family life issues in a monthly column. She can be reached at opinion@gazettenet.com and blogs at www.sittingonthebaby.com.

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