at about 11:20 a.m., I was crouched behind the tire of a white truck as two of my classmates began what is now an infamous rampage through my high school. I watched in stunned disbelief as students around me crumpled when bullets hit them, as pipebombs exploded literally so close to me I could reach out and touch them.
It was a day that altered the course of who I was and who I would become.
I recount this, not because I need either sympathy or praise for having survived it.
I recount this story because today, eleven years later at approximately 11:20 a.m., I was doing this:
I was posing for a photo with four generations of my family's women.
The significance and juxtaposition of the two scenarios was far from lost on me.
April 20th is always a day of reflection and remembrance for me; a day of very mixed emotions.
In addition to the loss of life - the people themselves, that is - part of what I have always mourned is the fact that my friends will never get to experience the wonderful things that I looked forward to in life. They will never graduate; never walk down the aisle into the arms of someone they love; never have the chance to experience that breathtaking moment when you look into the face of a newborn child; never grow old.
Today, though, I looked at from a brand new perspective; one that I could never fully appreciate before: the loss of life from a parent's perspective. It was a bit overwhelming.
When we were in the hospital after Leah was born, I did a lot of walking to help me heal from the C-section. I vividly remember walking past the doors to the NICU and feeling an immense sense of gratitude that we were on this side (the healthy side) of them. It was a sense of gratitude that could have easily dropped me to my knees and brought me to tears if I had let it.
As it was, I simply could not even go to that place... imagining what it must be like for parents whose children are suffering or in danger.
And I know that never goes away.
I look into the face of my sweet baby, knowing that there will be heartache and dangers in her life that I cannot protect her from, and it already breaks my heart. As much as I have come to terms with what I went through, I hope and pray that she will never have to face anything like it. In some ways, that is as much for my sake as hers.
I also wish that I had given my own mother more credit at the time. I felt like the tragedy wasn't hers in many ways - after all, she hadn't experienced it as I had - and I wasn't able to appreciate how much a mother aches when her children ache. I wish I could take some of that back now that I know better.
On the other side of the spectrum, though, I added an emotion that I have never yet felt on this day: JOY!!!
JOY because my day started with a series of smiles from my daughter - not her very first smiles, but the first time she has really responded that way to something I was doing. It was incredible, and perfectly timed!
JOY because life does go on, and renews itself in the most amazing ways.
JOY because I got to bring Leah to the Columbine memorial, and that act held enormous significance for me.
JOY because I know there is a purpose to what we all went through. Leah is proof enough of that!
JOY because I see divinity in the entire experience. I did then, and still do today, see God's hand at work in the direction of my life.
JOY because there is just so much to be joyful about.