When the World Trade Centers came down in 2001, my son was on his way to preschool. At that time, there was a sign taped up on the door of Peter Pan Co-op. It requested that we leave the world outside so that the children could spend their day away from the gathering storm. There would be days and weeks and months and years for them to come to reckon, along with their parents, on this new age in which we awoke. Since then, I have wondered many times what purpose that sign served. Did we really hope to keep the screams and smoke and fire from seeping into the hearts and minds of our children?
Maybe we did that morning. Before the twenty-four hour news cycle and YouTube and smart phones. Closing the door on all that noise and making an island of safety, sanity and giving kids a chance to be kids. Then they went home and the pictures and video and sounds from Ground Zero became part of the tapestry of their lives. We are still simultaneously weaving and unraveling that tapestry, decades later. Those kids are in college now. There is no sign on the university's door that asks for that same safety zone.
That morning, a lifetime ago, came before a deranged gunman shot up an elementary school in Connecticut. There was no sign that could take that pain away. Children were the victims. Cell phone video and security footage and access to Al Gore's Internet for anyone old enough to point and click brought the world into minds far too young to fully comprehend it. At the school where I teach, there are far too many young eyes that have seen far too much before they get promoted to middle school. There is no un-seeing. There is no way to wind back that clock.
That is why I want to try and bring more joy to the news, the net, and the neighborhood. Those shrines that I keep writing about spring up after someone is shot. How about some balloons and candles to mark the spot where a Little League team won its first game? How about a tweet for helping someone across the street? How about a blog post about something other than death and dying?
It's about time I started drawing that line.
Here and now.