We’ve been here before. As a young newlywed, I watched as terrorists flew two planes into the World Trade Center and killed an unspeakable amount of innocent people. Mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, husbands, wives, over 3000 of them gone, in one day. I cried for days. We all did. Flags dipped low under the smoky sky, and the plume of Manhattan seemed to cover us all in ash. As a young college student, I watched a television set on Penn State’s main campus as two students shot and killed their classmates at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. It was an unspeakable horror. I dreamed about that day for weeks afterward. I struggled to hold onto my belief that people are good and that America is safe. I was in high school when Timothy McVeigh bombed a federal building in Oklahoma City, I saw the images of the children being carried lifeless out of the burning rubble.
Despite the horrible nature of these crimes, and the crimes that have come later, we, as a nation, have moved forward. We’ve put one foot in front of the other and went on with our lives. But this, this latest event, this is different. There is something worse about a room full of Kindergarten students being gunned down. There is something worse about this. Something darker, something blacker. And I can’t get over it. Maybe it’s because I have kids now. I have six-year-old twin daughters who are exactly the age of the children who were killed. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and falling out of love with the country I was always so proud of. Maybe it’s all of the above.
The truth is, I am a ghost of the person I was on Thursday. On Thursday, I was aggravated that my six-year-old daughters didn’t get dressed fast enough and that we are always running late for school. On Thursday, I was annoyed by the guy holding up traffic while dropping his kid off at school because he had to give three hugs instead of two. On Thursday, the world around me was recognizable and despite pockets of dark, there was still light. Now, all of that has changed.
I thought about dismantling the gun advocacy argument piece by piece and responding to it, but I just can’t do it anymore. I want, instead, to tell you about my twins, Penelope and Samantha.
Penelope is a nervous child. She likes things a certain way and when something is out of place she can’t seem to “let it go.” She loves Barbies and the color pink. Although, until she was four, her favorite color was blue, and last year it was yellow, now we are on pink. Penelope has a freckle right on the tip of her nose and her lungs fill with air and she gives me this deep-belly laugh when I try to steal her freckle, which I do often. She is obsessed with gymnastics and I find her standing on her head all over the house. When we makes wishes, no matter where we are, she wishes that her family will be healthy and happy.
Penelope is sensitive. If she seems me crying, she rubs my back. She’s protective of her twin, her “sissy,” and tells me right away of someone is bothering her. She loves to sing, even though it’s off-key like her mother, and I’ve sat through about five “concerts” just in the past month alone. She is polite and sweet, and the weight of this world sits heavy on her shoulders.
Samantha is the complete opposite. She is a rough and wild. She runs around barefoot in the spring and summer and doesn’t bat an eye when she leaves muddy footprints all over the hardwood floors. She loves to crack jokes and laughs harder than any kid I know. She loves her sister, and in the morning, I often find them wrapped in an embrace as the sun lights up their shared bedroom. Samantha is scared of movies. I took her to see Brave and it freaked her out so much that she now refuses to go to the movies with me. I tried to calm her fear, but in the end, she will not budge.
But Samantha is strong when I need her to be. When she’s sick or when her sister is having a meltdown because a button fell off her coat, Samantha is steadfast. She is made of iron. I can count on her to keep it together, to wear the button-less coat to school so her sister will calm down. At night, Samantha hugs me tighter than anyone, burying her little noise into the curve of my neck.
These are my babies. The ones I waited my whole life for. These are my Kindergartners. Please don’t let somebody kill them. I would die without them.
Is your right to own a semi-automatic weapon more precious then Samantha and Penelope? If you let them, I assure you, they will grow up to do great things. They will be productive members of society. They will save people and invent things. Or they will work at the mall and just tip better at restaurants than most people. Either way I will love them and they will love you, America. If you just let them grow up.