I drove to the airport on Friday with blurred vision. Not understanding what it would be like to be a six-year-old child who faced an assault weapon. A six-year-old who lost her life. A six-year-old who watched as others were gunned down. Fear, questioning reality, anger and rage. I felt it too on Friday as I made a slow and methodical drive to park my car.
I listened to the news report on the am radio. I felt my heart crumble inside. I felt numb otherwise. I questioned so many things on my 45-minute drive. The how’s and whys…. The unreal feeling of helplessness. The inability to even comprehend such tragedy… such young lives snuffed out like a candle that was just lit.
Death is never an easy thing. Not like this. Not at all like this.
We question, we will never find answers. We mourn and we weep openly. We hold each other a little tighter. We make statements about what we should do differently. We say we will.
And then after a while we get back to what we were doing before we heard the tragic news… And those who lost someone never will. There is no going back, there is no return to normal.
Does life really go on? Or are we all tormented just a little bit more… poked and prodded by our discomfort.
We try desperately to find a comfortable place to lay our head, but truthfully, may never find that spot again.
I parked my car and got on the shuttle, quietly making my way into the airport and through the security process. I took off my shoes, exposed my toiletries and stood in a scanner with my arms over my head. For whatever reason they needed to pat down my shoulder… just in case.
I walked through the terminal alone… in solitude.
As I sat waiting for the call to board, I pondered life, staring at the TV screen that continued to pour out new information about the morning’s horrific events.
I looked around. For a bustling airport, it seemed unusually quiet. Not a ton of smiles or laughs. Most eyes were on the TV monitors sprinkled around at each terminal. The faint sound of Christmas music over the loudspeakers did very little to lighten the mood.
I was on my way to speak to young people. Some, not very much older than those whose lives were stolen away that morning. I knew it wouldn’t be easy… but my words very necessary.
Friday evening, I sat in my hotel room glued to the TV. I couldn’t stop watching…
As I walked over to the room I present my program in on Saturday, I again found myself alone. Each step I took, I prayed. I prayed for God to speak through me… to find peace, strength and courage to get through all 12 groups without emotion but with strong passion and love.
My job is usually very easy. I love what I do. And my passion comes through my words…
But quite a few times as I spoke on both Saturday and Sunday I felt the lump and tightness in my throat. I choked it back. Again, and again. As I looked into the eyes of innocence, I talked about reaching out instead of pointing fingers, of including others more than we judge them and about the power we have with our words. I felt compelled to share at the end of each session that now, more than ever before, love and awareness may just be the most important things.
See, what I think heals us the most in times like these is more than just what we do in the moments just following the tragedy. After 9/11 the good feelings only lasted so long… then people went back to arguing over parking spots and getting impatient if they waited in line too long. But the airport screenings have continued, and the fact that our world changed that day will never go away.
As we watch those who lost their little children now have to bury them, we show our support and we stand by them with candle light vigils and an outpouring of love. But in a few weeks, the fact that we will go back to what we were doing before all this happened will again be a detrimental loss in all of it.
What happens after that? When everyone goes home, these people are still left with empty beds and unopened presents that sit in closets.
What we can do now, what heals us the most… is not allowing those little lives to be taken in vain. Our daily habits pay homage to them. Our ability to make sure we don’t lose sight of what is really important will never bring them back, but will possibly shift the energy around us forever.
What heals us the most is love. And that… that is a timeless, often misunderstood gift we need to give to ourselves. And as we do, we find deeper abilities to share it with those around us.
Like the flight attendant instructs us on every flight, “Put your oxygen mask on first, before assisting those around you.”
We talk about loving others as if it’s some big new thing… and after tragedy we have glimmers of hope that it may happen. But I will argue that maybe starting with loving ourselves more would make change more permanent.
Only then will we have the love for each other that will truly make a difference.
Some day, each one of us will leave this earth. When that is, we don’t know.
But in the mean time… Shall we not take for granted the precious moments we have together.
Love… Right now. Tomorrow. The next day, and long after. Find new ways. Speak new words. Give more.
It is and will continue to be what heals us the most.