The Ottumwa Courier

December 19, 2012

What do we tell our children?

Et Cetera

Ottumwa Courier

OTTUMWA — Are we becoming a nation of people numbed to terrible tragedies? As I watched the shooting massacre in Connecticut, I heard all the usual adjectives: horrendous, terror, monstrous, ghastly.

There really are no words to describe what happened in that school. Little children were gunned down without rhyme or reason. Adults got caught in the crossfire, too. Some of them were heroic, shielding their young charges, most of whom remained safe. Safe maybe, but perhaps scarred for life.

It shouldn’t happen. Not in a school. Not in a church. Not in a hospital. Not in a home.

Something so terrible should not happen in a place of refuge. And that is what I think of our school houses, our hospitals, our churches and our homes.

These children, our children, need to know there are places of refuge. Way too many of our youngsters go to school — the only safe place they know, if they come from a broken home, a druggy home, a home without good parents or enough food. These children go to school and get nurturing and nutrition.

We ask our teachers and school staffs to take care of our children, to provide them with education and with whatever else is lacking in their lives. We ask a lot of our educators, maybe way too much.

In our own community, we know we can walk into any school, the hospital and many churches and find what we need there. We know they are places of comfort and joy. And, of help.

What if we lose these? What if all schools will become lockdown institutions, necessary to keep out the bad guys? What if all hospitals are locked, and it will be difficult to visit our ailing family members or friends? What if all of our churches are locked, and we cannot go in and kneel down and seek help?

These are all places of refuge for all of us.

To children as young as the kindergartners who died in the Connecticut shootings, what can we tell those who survived? That school, that wondrous place of learning, is not safe? That we will have to install even more safeguards to keep them safe?

I don’t want to argue the merits of gun ownership, or, what many of us feel — that gun laws are way too lax. That people should not be able to buy such guns so easily.

What I want to know, is what do we tell our children? Where do we tell them to go when they seek refuge or help? What do we tell them when they ask if they are safe?

I do not know the answers.

I just want everyone to look deep into your hearts and try and discover what it is we want our young people to be. To be afraid to go to school? No, none of us want that.

But, what do we tell them, our little children?

I wish I knew.

Judy Krieger is a retired Courier editor.