It’s a beautiful winter’s day. She had skipped off to school, turned and waved and gone through the door of the school chattering with her best friend forever.
And then the phone rings.
Hello? What? When? At the school? Is anybody hurt? Oh, my God!
You hang up.
You call your husband. Please hurry. I don’t know yet. Hurry. You weep and scream and cry and ask him to please, dear God, hurry. He’s on the way. He tells you everything is going to be OK.
You hurry. There are drawings on the side of the refrigerator, held up with a magnet from Disney World. One is of Santa. One says “I love you, Mommy.”
There’s a pink sweater, the piece of a puzzle, the arm of a dismembered Barbi. You told her to pick up her toys. Why does she always leave that jacket out. The dog barks. And barks.
The sun is shining. There is a tree with a broken limb in the corner of the yard. You’ll never forget that tree. The bicycle is in the driveway. There is a tiny glove on the front seat.
You drive toward the school. You’ve made that trip twice every day. It’s not far. You were just there.
You see the police cars, and the fire trucks, and the ambulances, and men carrying big rifles, and men with dogs. And you stop. And you start running.
There are police everywhere. Why are there so many? Nobody is smiling. They are all in a hurry. They say to go to the fire station, but you want to go to the school. You ask everybody you pass. What’s going on? Tell me. My child, my baby, is in that school. Don’t you understand that?
Will somebody please tell me what the hell is going on?!
Another parent is running. You know her. The church. She tells you there’s been a shooting. That’s all we know. All the children in the school were taken to the fire station. They’re inside.
All of them?
I don’t know she shouts.
Everybody is so nice, but their eyes are sad. You will always remember the eyes.
Where is my husband?
You see a neighbor coming toward you holding her child’s hand. She’s crying. It’s awful, it’s just awful, she says.
Did you see her?
And the neighbor sobs, and the nice policeman takes you by the arm.
Inside the fire station. They are all inside. Right?
And the nice policeman with the sad eyes doesn’t say anything. And you know.
And you shake him and pull away and shout the brutal, hopeless, tragic, hysterical question: is she inside the fire station?
And he says no.
And you don’t believe him.
And then you do.
And you scream. And scream.