My primary role at work in the aftermath of 9/11 was to compile the names of the victims. List after growing list, which we published every Friday for months. It got so I could recite a whole block of names from memory, having ran my eyes over them repeatedly, and I kept reminding myself that this was not just a running tally; the list was fathers and sons and mothers and daughters and people who were loved and needed.
A newsroom is a tough place to be on days like 9/11, like Friday. On both of those days, the only thing I wanted to do was go home and be with my babies. But you put your head down, try to do the job well, and block out the implications. On those days, it's nigh impossible.
As impossible as it is to imagine yourself caught in the middle of these tragedies. I had a split-second on Friday. My boss came to me and said there was a shooting at a school. And he immediately said, "In Connecticut." But there was a beat. So brief as to not even be measurable, but in that moment, every slow-motion fear came rushing at me. Every synapse seized. Emet is at school. AJ is at school. The baby.
I e-mailed Emet. I pulled up the website of the newspaper near our home. Just to reach out. Flailing. Tears and aching in my heart. A hundred times on Friday and then a hundred more on Saturday.
I was back in the newsroom early on Saturday, unscheduled but necessary. More names. This time, I had to find them. We need quotes, insight. Who, what, when where, why, how? Constant. And the list of the victims, the children, and I wanted to stop and pause and pray on them and hold those names, not let them just go on a list.
At the end of the shift, I met Emet and the baby at a sushi bar. When he hears my voice, my youngest son, Caleb is his name, he snaps his head around, smiles, and holds his arms out. I pull him into me.
AJ was at his Mom's this weekend, but I called him Friday night. "Did your Mom talk to you about what happened?"
"Are you scared?"
And I told him that was good, he should rightfully feel safe at school and we were both sad and I missed him. When he asks me why, I'll tell him I don't know. I'll also tell him that there's more of us than there are of them, more good than bad, and that's how we can make it better, by being better. To ourselves, to others, to everyone.
Charlotte. Daniel. Olivia. Josephine. Ana. Dylan. Madeleine. Catherine. Chase. Jesse. James. Grace. Emilie. Jack. Noah. Caroline. Jessica. Benjamin. Avielle. Allison.
Dawn. Victoria. Mary. Rachel. Anne Marie. Nancy. Lauren.
Another list. Another day where we shake our heads and wonder how this has happened again, rage and helplessness in equal parts and there's no easing of either. So you just put your head down, plow through it and honor them with works. Honor them by remembering. Honor them with extra moments in the arms of your loved ones and laughter and compassion and generosity for all people.