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Remembering a Place of Tragedy

What Will This Become?

by MISSY BEATTIE

On January 13, residents of Newtown, Connecticut gathered to discuss the fate of Sandy Hook Elementary where 20 first graders and six staff were slaughtered December 14, 2012 by a 20-year-old using a military-style rifle.

Should the school be demolished?

Renovated?

Become a park?

A center for peace education?

Designated a shrine?

I am trying to imagine this, as I think about taking my children to their schools years ago. I see them now, J and H, each running after the car the first few days. I was a wreck, looking in the rearview. Those little arms reaching for me. Pulling to the curb, I would lean across and open the door. “Come on.” Then I’d drive around the block, stop, and accompany J, and years later, H, delivering each to what I believed was the safety of his classroom and teacher.

I am trying to imagine, as I think of my own childhood and the elementary school within walking distance of our house. I see a vast front yard, a side playground, and steep steps my best friend Janie and I pogo’d up and down.

Barack Obama called December 14, 2012 the worst day of his presidency.

I am trying to imagine the horror of this day. I am imagining the horror of this day. Hearing about the shooting. Rushing to the school. Saying, “Please, not my child. Not my child.” And knowing that if it is not my child, it is someone else’s.

It is someone else’s in the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa, and all areas targeted by US barbarism.

It is someone else’s when a funeral procession, wedding party, any activity is ended by a drone attack. Just as it has been and will persist during the tenure of Barack Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize recipient, the candidate who opposes only the “dumb wars,” who promised to close GITMO, who has a “kill list,” and who has authorized the use of more unmanned aerial vehicles than his predecessor George Bush.

Just as it will continue to be under the “leadership” of any jingoist.

But the worst day of Obama’s presidency—12/14/12 when 20 American children were massacred in Newtown.

I am trying to imagine that building in Connecticut. Regardless of its razing, any alteration in appearance, or what it is named, it will be remembered always as a place of tragedy.

I am trying to imagine how many gatherings there may be of family members and community residents, discussing whether or not to level, camouflage, beautify, after more Newtowns. More Anywhereville schools. More mall and theater shootings, certain to continue here at home—actually  the collateral damage of a war-worshipping society and an economic system that profits from the deaths of human beings, from the destruction of all life, really.

And I am trying to imagine the families, so many now, in the countries ravaged by US greed. Have they gathered to ask, “What will this place of unbearable loss become?

Do they wonder what we’re thinking, those of us thousands of miles away, with their children’s blood on our hands, those of us who really do know that each act of imperial violence is committed not just in our names but by us?

Missy Beattie lives in Baltimore or less:missybeat@gmail.com