Like everyone else, I’m processing the school shooting that happened in Newtown, CT last Friday. Like everyone else, I can’t fathom the pain experienced by the parents of the slain children. I felt devastated more than 1,100 miles away, with no connection to the families, other than being a parent who knows what it is to love a child.
At work today, I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket. I surreptitiously checked it, only to see a text alert from the local public school district, the one where my son is enrolled. All schools were on modified lock-down. Students safe. Wha-? ALL schools? Were they being threatened? What was going on? I had a hard time maintaining my composure as I waited on library patrons, because all I wanted to do was check the web for local news to try to find out what was going on. Thank goodness for the “students safe” part of the text. Turns out there was a wide-ranging car chase going on, and the driver had been identified as having an ex-wife who was employed by the district. Before too long, a second text arrived stating the lockdown was ended.
And that was when I had to excuse myself to go wipe my eyes in the bathroom. Because I’d had the tiniest of tiny tastes of what the Newtown parents had experienced. And it brought the tragedy to the forefront of my mind again.
Many people, myself no exception, have taken to social networking with opinions and activism of one sort or another in the wake of the tragedy. One thing I’ve noticed in between impassioned debates about gun control and mental health care, is that folks have been posting many links to music and poetry.
Only last week, I discovered the Leonard Cohen song, “Come Healing.” Somehow it seems perfect for the time. I can’t stop listening to it. I can’t even explain why it helps, but it helps. That’s the magic of music. It doesn’t make the grief go away, but it gets us through.
Many of my facebook friends have posted the link to the children’s choir singing “Silent Night” on Saturday Night Live. For the couple of minutes the song lasts, you’re given the feeling that somehow the world might be worth living in again some day. A few more friends have posted this Kahlil Gibran poem.
Now I see. Music and poetry are more than arts. They’re human instincts.
What songs and poems get you through?