I’m from Boston. My mother’s family has been there since they got off the boat. My father’s family has been at least nearby since well before the Revolutionary War. I grew up in central Massachusetts. Right now I live right outside the city.
My heart is breaking right now for my city.
My first thoughts when I heard about the bombs at the marathon were worry and fear about the many, many people I know running and watching. Frantic texts, facebooking, and calls later, I know everyone is ok.
My immediate next thoughts- what am I going to tell my kids? We’re on vacation now, but I know we’ll be talking about this when we get back in a week.
Third grade is a scary time. You’re old enough to know that the world isn’t just a shiny, happy, safe place. You’re young enough to feel confused, powerless, and left out of the loop. When things like this happen, they want answers from the adults in their lives. They want to know what happened, and why, and if it could happen to them. They want to know that if it were to happen in their town, their city, their school, you would keep them safe.
When the tragedy at Sandy Hook happened, I did my best. I tried to balance what they needed- information, without the terrifying details, but enough to make them feel they weren’t being lied to.
I told them that a person who was sick in their mind and wanted to hurt people brought a gun to a school, and people died. At night I dreamed about gunman coming in, looking my students in their innocent faces, and pulling a trigger.
I just heard that one of the victims of the bombing today was 8 years old. I don’t know anything else. Was that victim a boy or a girl? Where did they go to school? Was it in my state? In my county? In my school? Was it one of my kids? The odds are slim. But it could have been. It could be.
How can you kill another person? How can you kill a child?
How can I look my students in the eyes and tell them that this is what humanity is?
How can any of us move past this? Even if Boston isn’t your city. If Massachusetts isn’t your state. If the U.S. isn’t your nation. Chances are someone from your state or country was running in this race. Chances are something awful like this happened where you live at some point. This happens all over the world.
Here is what I do know. You can let it consume you- the rage, the pain, the fear, the grief.
Or you can fight it with every ounce of your being. You can push back against the darkness. Light your own damn fire against the awful truths that are out there.
That’s what I feel like I do as a teacher. As a lifelong pessimist, the most cynical person my friends had ever seen, the eternal nay sayer. Teaching changed me. You can’t come in every day and teach (regardless of age, whether they are 2 or 82), unless you belief in the future. Fervently, hopefully, against all odds or reason.
Maybe one of my students will grow up to be an EMT. A doctor or a nurse. A psychologist. A politician. An engineer rebuilding blown out buildings. A teacher, looking at their students and trying to explain. Every day I have my hands on the future. How can I lose hope?
I have to believe in the good. I have to believe that humanity is inherently good, that the future is ultimately bright, that people, at their core, want to help others. Today I saw people run towards the blast site to help the wounded.
Anne Frank said, “In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”
I have to keep believing that. It’s my job. I have to hold to that belief, hone it, pass it on to my students.
Otherwise, the darkness wins. The evil triumphs.
Today, they tried to destroy my city. They blew out the storefront windows of places where my friends work. They left smears of blood on the sidewalk where I love to walk in summer. They left body parts scattered on the road near restaurants I have happy memories at. They tried to hurt people I care about, who trained for years to get to this point. To kill the people standing at the finish line to cheer them on. They tried to kill our spirits, our belief in the future, our hope.
I won’t let them. I can’t. I owe it to my kids.