18 little faces

I think of those 18 kids. Those 18 little faces. Eighteen people who had all of the potential in the world. I think of 18 kids who got up and went to school, like it was any other day, who eagerly awaited the weekend (and who even more eagerly awaited the upcoming summer vacation).

What could have been going through their minds when an 18 year old man started shooting? Did they cry? Did they hide? Did they comprehend what was happening?

I think about those parents. Those 18 sets of parents whose worlds are crashing down on them today. Parents who had the normal frustrations of life yesterday and who are now experiencing pain that most of us will never have to imagine. Waiting to wake up from this terrible dream, still in disbelief that this could have happened, longing to rewind time, and knowing life will never be quite the same. Eigteen sets of parents who kissed their babies goodbye this morning or last night and who took for granted that they would see them tonight and that they would be safe and that all would be right, at least in their worlds.

I think about the voids that will exist in the family’s photos forever. I think about the lives these kids could have lived, the decent people they could have grown up to become. Those rites of passage which American life gives us: summers at the pool, learning to drive, senior prom, getting married, and having kids of their own. And in a few minutes, one person. One cowardly and inconsequential person robbed all of them of that. Whatever hatred and rage this man had, he stole so many hundreds of years of life in a few moments. 

As I think about the man who did this atrocity, I wish he would have just turned the gun on himself from the beginning and not taken it out on innocent kids. His life might have taken bad turns and he might have been a troubled soul, but the price for his anger and hatred should not have been paid by these kids.

A terrible risk of human freedom is the fact that we are free to sometimes choose to harm others. To act out in such a hateful and malicious way is something that the vast majority of us will never have to deal with. In America and abroad, tragedies seem to happen very frequently in our world. But I feel like this one is especially tough to face because of the people this man targeted. Little kids. 

Why? Why them?

As time goes on, I have no doubt that we will hear stories of teachers acting in remarkably heroic ways. I think about the little children all over the country who are going to have fears and nightmares. I think about the kids in this school who survived, how this event will mark the survivors for the rest of their lives. I think about how tragic it all is.

To the community and to the families, I join so many millions across the nation in extending my sympathies, condolences, thoughts and prayers.

Josh Benner