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Tragic School Shooting Teaches About Strength, Suffering

Once again, our nation mourns. This time we grieve and struggle to understand last week’s bloody rampage at Virginia Tech, where 33 lives were abruptly ended. One of the victims was Livio Librescu, an engineering professor and Holocaust survivor, who lived through the atrocities of the concentration camps as a little boy, but not the horror that struck more than 60 years later at his workplace-turned-war-zone. In one of life’s cruel, twisted ironies, Librescu died a hero on Yom HaShoah, the international day of remembrance for victims of the Holocaust. On that tragic Monday morning at a typically peaceful college campus, the Romanian immigrant gave his life to save the lives of others. To protect the students in his classroom, the courageous 76-year-old husband and father barricaded the door with his body and was consequently riddled with bullets by the 23-year-old psychopathic gunman on the other side.

As so many stories of heroism and bravery continue to unfold, the massacre at Virginia Tech serves as an opportunity to teach our children how human strength prevails in the depths of despair and suffering. At the same time, this new generation of weapon savvy terrorists reminds parents that our children are no longer safe at school. My gut reaction is to protect Jack and Sari from learning about the catastrophe at Virginia Tech, but my attempts to shield them from reality are short-lived.

When the shocking news first broke about another deadly school shooting, I try to take in as much media frenzy as possible before my kids return home from school. The ugly mug of Don Imus disappears off the front pages and is replaced by videos of swat teams aiming their firearms and mangled students being carried out of buildings. I can barely comprehend the events of this mass murder that unfold before my eyes on CNN, so how can I expect my kids to begin to understand? Sure, this latest killing spree brutally justifies the routine intruder drills that my kids practice at school, but I still want to shield them from the violence and cruelty that exists out there. I don’t want them to worry about things that they have no control of. I still want them to go to school everyday without feeling paranoid.

So I quickly turn off the television news when I hear Jack plow through the door and fling his backpack and tennis shoes in the laundry room. My sixth-grader plops down on the couch next to me, and we talk about his day.
Me: “How was school?”
Jack: “Good”.
Me: “How was gym?”
Jack: “Good.”
Me: “How was lunch?”
Jack: “Good.”
Me: What kind of homework do you have today?”
Jack: “Good.”

Then my son interrupts our stimulating conversation with:
Jack: “Did you hear about the student killings in Virginia?”
Me: “Uhh, yes, actually, I’ve been watching the news on television. It’s a terrible thing that happened. What do you know about it?”
Jack: “Our principal handed out a note to everyone.”
Me: “What’s it say?”

Jack digs through crumbled pieces of paper and then hands me a letter from the school superintendent. It explains that in the aftermath of the devastating tragedy at Virginia Tech, school safety remains a priority and counselors and other resources are available if students or parents want to discuss their fears or concerns. Before I have a chance to ask Jack another question, he races upstairs to play on the computer. By the time he comes back downstairs for a chocolate chip cookie and glass of milk, the easily accessible Internet has already informed him about the latest details of the senseless and ruthless shooting spree.

Our discussion picks up from where we left off.
Me: “So how do you feel about the school shooting?”
Jack: “Good.”
Me: “Come on, Jack, how do you feel good?”
Jack: “I mean that I feel sorry for the people who died and were hurt. I think the shooter is crazy. But I still feel safe at my school.”

While both Jack and Sari process the chilling facts in bite-size pieces and at their own pace, I call their attention to the peaceful community that comes together in its sorrow. I want Jack and Sari to appreciate how the families and friends of the victims lean on each other, as well as their faith, to help them cope and heal in the painful years ahead.

During the university-wide convocation that took place on the day after the worst mass murder in America, representatives of different religious groups, from Muslim to Jewish, share their insights about life and death and God.

For thousands of years, Jewish thinkers have explored the topic of good and evil, and Kohelet’s words of wisdom in the biblical book of Ecclesiastes still make sense today. He wrote:
1. To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2. A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to plug up that which is planted;
3. A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4. A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5. A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing;
6. A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7. A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8. A time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

“Mishegas of Motherhood” is the creation of Ellie S. Grossman, a St. Louis freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom who never stays home. Her stories are inspired by the real life of her family, including her two children, toy poodle named Luci, and her husband, but not necessarily in that order. Feel free to send any comments, prayers or recipes to: ellie@mishegasofmotherhood.com or visit her new website at www.mishegasofmotherhood.com.