The End of the World As We Know It

If you are reading this, then the world didn’t end.


So, now what?

The Mayans and other ancients saw an end of an era, which can mean anything. If you set your sights on the most devastating horrors swirling around us — from Hurricane Sandy to Sandy Hook — then you are missing the bigger picture. If you see a bloody, apocalyptic end to the world, then you are drinking some ugly ass Koolaid. My friend has a sign in her gym that says fear is False Evidence Appearing Real. And that’s a good way to make the case for chaos, a definite sign the world is royally screwed, if not ending.

When I see a woman and a mother — former Representative Mary Bono Mack (R-California) — appearing virtually on the scene of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School beamed in to have a “debate” with Soledad O’Brien about gun control, I can’t believe we live in a world where people — WOMEN for G’d’s sake — actually buy into the idea that guns are off the hook because “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

I could go on a giant rant here about how defending an antiquated law set up in a time of muskets and militias is insane. But the definition of insanity isn’t just extreme foolishness and irrationality; it’s doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. That was Einstein’s opinion, and who would argue with that? Besides a lot of politicians and legislators who are either gun enthusiasts, in the pocket of the NRA, or both.

Thirty school killings since Columbine, and yet the automatic weapons ban remains lapsed and 50 states support the right to carry concealed weapons. INSANE in the membrane. I’m sorry, but that doesn’t make me feel safer AT ALL. Because I know what it means to be in the heart of fear and panic — the tipping point between life as we knew it and the new reality. And although my personal brush with horror didn’t include weaponry per se, there was a clear line between what happened and the perfect storm policies and conditions that breed people who have no capacity to value life — hence, tragedy.

On September 11, 2001, we lived just a couple of miles from the World Trade Center. It was an auspicious day for reasons we all now know, but let’s go in the way back machine to around 8:45 in the morning. For us, it was a big day of change: our two-and-a-half-year-old son was going to his first day of preschool. I dropped him off for a tearful goodbye (mine, not his!), and headed toward home, my cranky infant daughter fussing in the stroller and letting me know it was time for her morning nap.

And then a man I’d never met stopped me. “Did you hear a plane just flew into the World Trade Center?”

My heart just about stopped. It didn’t make any sense, but maybe the pilot was drunk, a bird got stuck in the engine, something, anything my mind could grasp.

“What did I just say?” the man asked. I repeated how he’d said that a plane just flew into the World Trade Center.

“No, not a plane. Two planes. And I think they hit both towers,” he said, and hurried away.

By now I was about a block away from my son’s preschool. And just like a creepy Spielberg movie, people were starting to emerge from their homes, stumbling around in disbelief and desperately trying to get a signal for their cell phones.

Maybe there were calling their husband or wife. A mother, a brother, a friend. A son. A daughter.

Nobody could get through, and neither could anyone wrap his or her head around what was going down. I ran ten blocks to my apartment, as an ominous plume of gray filled the sky. By the time I reached my husband, who was working from home that day, we knew we were under attack. Blood rushed in my head and my heart hammered so hard I was sure it might explode as we ran top speed back to the preschool.

The cheerful front door that held happy little welcome signs minutes before was now firmly bolted shut. We pounded on the heavy metal door, until the school principal peeked her head out. When we asked for our son, she replied he would be safer with them. They had procedures and protocols for such an emergency, as Jewish schools had long been a target for deranged intruders. She invited us into the preschool fortress, but somehow that didn’t make me feel any better. Picturing my tiny son hunkered down in a bunker felt frightening. And more than anything, I just wanted us to get home together and in one piece.

To our own safety, whatever that now was.

Since 911, a whole department of Homeland Security has been established, with a slew of legislation enacted quickly and effectively in response to any and all threats. Got a shoe bomber on board? Now everyone takes off footwear to go through airport security. Your wires started being tapped in the Bush era and continue to this day. Guantanamo remains open for business — the message is anti-American chatters and plotters beware. Your privacy rights have been sacrificed for the greater good and for increased security. Not everyone likes it, but it is the law of the land.

So when I see family members from Columbine, Aurora, Oregon, Virginia, and all the sites of recent massacres somberly discussing on the talk show circuit the end of their worlds as they knew it, I can’t imagine that the Mary Bono Mack’s of our society are still digging their heels in. Something’s gotta give. When I hear Rush Limbaugh waxing poetic about the article I posted on my Facebook page, “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother: A Mom’s Perspective on The Mental Illness Conversation in America,” and we are in agreement that conversation is over, action must be on, I know that it’s the end of something as we knew it.

And that feels weird, but also fine.

I know we can come together as a country, and find a way to stop this insanity.

So if you say I’m a dreamer, just know I’m gonna tell you I am definitely not the only one. I hope today’s the day everyone will join us, and we’ll be on the way to living as one.

Now enjoy this song of peace, written and performed by another December victim of gun violence, John Lennon.

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