I remember the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting quite well. It was one of the worst news announcements I’ve heard in my life. Because of where I was when it happened, the hideous massacre is forever connected to my own family trauma that was happening during December 2012. My wife and I were on our way to have a meeting with my brother’s medical team about his condition: severe acute pancreatitis. At this time, he’d been in the hospital for only two weeks and was already in a medically induced coma.
The news of the shooting came over the radio. My wife and I were in a grief-filled fog of shock and horror. Tears bulged out of our eyes like marbles, not quite spilling on our cheeks. As new parents we were aghast at the thought of something like this happening to our little ones, and we each felt our heart being ripped in solidarity with the parents of the dead children of Sandy Hook Elementary.
When we arrived at the hospital and made our way to George’s room in ICU, my mother and her husband were already there. I can’t remember if my stepmother—the loving one—had arrived yet. George, 36— just 18 months older than me, was in yet another surgery exploring the roughage in his pancreas and thus out of the room.
When we blew into room 17 from the cold, I saw my distant relatives sitting on the window seat, scrunched and uncomfortable. We said hello to them as if playing a part in a movie. I was kneeling on the floor looking in my large bag for an earring I had lost when I said, “Did you hear about the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary?,” my voice catching as I said it.
“Yes,” my mother responded. “And did you hear about the girl and her boyfriend who hid her baby in the woods so no one could find out about it? That baby died.”
I stared at this woman who’d birthed me and loved me for a short time but had made it clear since that she was not responsible for loving me or caring for me any longer. I wondered why she would bring up another tragedy instead of focusing on the mass horror that had happened within hours of our conversation. And all I could figure is that she was competing with me on who knew most about tragedy in the world. She was one-upping me with stories of kid killing. And that’s when I knew she was no mother of mine.
Having a narcissistic mother has made an enormous impact on my life as both a person and as a mother. But her illness hasn’t permeated my full being, and I’ve had to work hard to rid her self-centered teachings from my own soul. Luckily, I received some of my father’s humble personality to balance it all out within me. This self-awareness didn’t become clear to me until I reached my 30s.
Above all else, I’m grateful to have reached this age in my life—something the victims of the Newtown massacre will not be able to do. They don’t get to complain about their parents or be excited for what Santa will give them. The 20 children whose lives were cut extremely short because of somebody with a gun and an agenda live on in America’s heart. But can our country step beyond its own narcissism and what measures need to be taken to avoid another tragedy and get serious about gun control?
Since the Sandy Hook shootings, an American kid has died by a gun every other day. I feel helpless and confused about what to do next, but silence isn’t an option.
My brother eventually died 14 weeks later of severe acute pancreatitis and complete organ failure. He was 36. My mother lives on in her own fantasy land that she’s created where everything is about her, or so I hear. I wouldn’t know. I have chosen to remain in the world of the caring. And it is with this that I light a candle to remember the lives taken by guns. I remember not to make the murders a light conversation topic to be volleyed around for who can bring up the worst tragedy. We must act responsibly and compassionately. This isn’t a competition in who deserves more attention or who has a right to bear arms. It’s a battle bigger than all of this. Than all of us. But it is for all of us that we must find a solution.
Photo from left to right, from top: Alton and Ashton Perry, Leonard J. Smith Jr., Aaron Vu; Middle: Sebastian Swartz, Tiana Ricks, Mia Lopez; Bottom: Antonio Santiago, Jaidon Dixon, Madison Dolford. NBC News