In my lifetime, there have been 83 days like today (1). At first, there were books about them. Stories of bravery and heroism, sacrifice and inspiration. We pretended to learn lessons from days like today, in the beginning.
Days like today are surreal. They are so wholly tragic that our bodies slip into autopilot, functioning not because our brain tells them to, but because some faint awareness in the background tells us
take a shower.
go to work.
Humans were not made to process suffering on this scale, and yet we are on a seemingly eternal cycle of days like today.
I can't say I remember all of these days. Some were before I was really conscious in the world. More I was sheltered from, by my parents, wanting to protect their children from that reality, by teachers who thought they could keep their classrooms safe by avoiding the topic altogether, by thoughts and prayers and vague platitudes about how we are better, could be better, will be better.
The first day like today for me was on a Friday in December. I was sitting at my desk at my part time job trying to source candidates for a temp position without a future. By the time I was off, twenty children and six staff members had been murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I sat in my car in silence for what felt like forever until routine told me
turn the key.
It rained on my way home. I made it halfway before I pulled my car over to the side of the 405 and sobbed, the sky crying with me as I wondered aloud, who does this to children? The windshield wipers dutifully wiped away the rain. Back and forth, back and forth, over and over and over again until I told them to stop.
At the time, I didn't have a phone. Mine had broken the week before and I had asked for one for Christmas and figured I could wait the three weeks for it. When I got home that day, I called my Mom and asked if I could have it early, because what if this happened at my school, and I couldn't contact the police or get in touch with my family?
That was five years ago. I was 21. It was the first time I wondered if this would ever happen to me, my family, my friends, my classmate and coworkers.
Since then, people have been murdered in schools, in Churches, in nursing homes, at nightclubs, on the streets, in department stores, at their homes, at their places of work, and now, at music festivals. Every single one of these tragedies has been followed by a day like today.
They are frighteningly routine. They are numbing. They are sorrow and anger and disbelief that it is, again, another day like today. They are Facebook posts of parents frantically trying to find their children. They are dark. They are awful. They are miserable. They are knowing that next week, next month, next year, there will be another day like today.