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a moment of silence


The Marysville Pilchuck High School shooting has taken the lives of five teenagers (children really - only just beginning high school) and left one other to heal from injuries both physical and emotional.  Hundreds of other children were directly impacted, and I do not exaggerate when I say thousands more emotionally torn. Their parents all got up and went about their day no differently than any other. If they had checked on the weather before heading out there would have been no storm warnings to prepare them for what was actually in the forecast. They did not know that just a few hours into their day, each of them, in an instant, would be swept up in the fearsome force of tragedy, altering the landscape of the lives.

When I answered the call from my daughter that morning the tone in her voice gave my stomach an immediate twist.  "MP is in lockdown Mom.  There's a shooter and it's not good.  Check the news.  I will call you when I know more."  That was at 10:48 a.m. just minutes after the shooting.  It took Social Media to broadcast in minutes what would have taken hours just a few years ago. When I dropped my son off that morning he said, "I forgot my phone.  Don't forget to pick me up - I won't be able to call you." That morning I was an advocate of no cell phones in the classroom.  Three hours later I'm making a mental note to assure that he never goes to school again without it.  It was a text that would inform me our neighbor, a fourteen year old student at Marysville Pilchuck, was on CNN. 

As I listened to his voice, now in transition to that of a man, my mind's eye pictured the little boy dressed as Spiderman a week before Halloween, then only four years old "invisible" under our dining room table. Holding on to a corner of our own childhood imagination we all made sure he would be successful in his return home across the street unscathed and undetected.  Spiderman, was now fourteen, pulling his girlfriend under the cafeteria table. The shots, the screams, the hysteria all so loud and yet there was a silent clarity in the midst of the confusion as the shooter, (this was his friend...right?), made eye contact with him (he can't actually see him - he's invisible...right?), and then turned and walked towards the doors. 

I knocked on Spiderman's door just a few hours later.  None of the students from Marysville Pilchuck had been released to their parents yet.  I was checking on his mother hoping she had word of his safety. The door opened and standing there was Spiderman himself.  He was home unscathed and undetected. How had he accomplished such a feat? (Of course....he had used the back door of the cafeteria and jumped the fence - Spiderman at his stealthy best). 

After a hug Spiderman slipped past me to talk to my son, his friend for as long as they can remember.  I continued my conversation with his mother.  Glancing across the street I could see our boys, both High School Freshmen now, sitting on front porch.  The rapids of life's river now raging before them.  My son in shock, watching in horror as his friends are pushed from the safety of its banks into the icy water and Spiderman trying to catch his breath after pulling himself out of those rapids back to the river's edge.

My youngest son attends the other Marysville High School.  "What a relief" you may say.  Yes, undeniably in the moment it was.  And yet, these were his peers.  He knew each of them, they all attended the same Middle School, he played football with them last year.  While Jaylin was voted Freshman class homecoming prince, my son had been nominated for the same at Getchell High School, whose homecoming was to have been that same Friday.  And then, of course, there is his connection with Spiderman.  He knows there will forever be difference a between Spiderman, who was in the cafeteria that day, and himself, who could only watch the events unfold. I sense my son carries a burden that came with these events that I can't quite understand yet.  I see the impact of this past week in his eyes during moments of silence.

MP was where I graduated from High School along with four of my children. I have lived in this community for 46 years. As a result I have struggled to write this post - give words to my thoughts - find peace myself.  I couldn't even bring myself to visit the memorial fence along the High School's outer field until five days had passed.  The events seemed so personal (even though I personally knew none of the victims or families), so visceral, so exploited, and so loud.

The first glimpse I caught of Peace was the quiet appearance of red and white ribbons all over town.  Along overpasses, surrounding local playgrounds, tied to the trees which line our streets so beautifully in the fall.  Main streets, side streets, back streets...they are everywhere.  A simple knot, tied by hands perhaps unknown and at the same time with a feeling of familiarity.  They whispered the call for healing, unity, forgiveness, and peace in midst of unimaginable turmoil.





October 24th also marked the anniversary of another Marysville tragedy.  It was not one be heard across the nation as the shots in the cafeteria were.  Yet the quiet response of our community at a time of loss was just as powerful.  This also involved High School children and the sudden tragic loss of life.  As I reflected upon that experience in 2011 I was reminded that Peace is found in the small, silent expressions made to give voice to the feelings of our heart.

Life's river will have many rapids, and a walk along it's rocky edge may mean at times we find ourselves in the midst of its turbulence.  The water's are loud and fear invoking as we are reminded that we cannot control all things - often those things we have felt most secure in.  For more than 300 years "a moment of silence" has been practiced by people of diverse ethnic and religous backgrounds as means of coming together in what I believe is a universal recognition of the need for quiet and connection in times of turmoil.  An expression of the fact that even though we are all so very different, we are also all very much the same.  That no matter how tough we are and how in control we may appear... the time will surely come when we are also vulnerable and without control. 

I would not want any child, any family, any community to experience tragedy the way ours did this past week.  That being said, I know its force will sweep through each life in one form or another. Our attempts to shield ourselves or our children from it are futile at best.  There are the obvious rough waters we put up warning signs for (as we should) in our best effort to protect those who will walk the path we have marked, yet we simply cannot see what lies around each bend in the river of life.

For three years now in the summer my family has enjoyed an end of the Season river float.  Eastern Washington sunshine and inflatables to relax on are all we need for the days adventure.  Last year as I was floating along, day dreaming, the peaceful quiet of the river gave me no warning of the current which was pulling me quickly towards what my family could see would be a toss in the water.  Wait for it...wait for it...there she goes!!  Mom (who had kept herself remarkedly dry - was soaking wet!) Everyone got a good laugh at my expense. (No surprise in that fact.)

I have reflected upon that river float many times - daily since the shootings.  The quiet rush of the water around me when I slipped below the surface was so peaceful.  I had gained a completely different perspective of the river in that moment of silence.  Peace is always within our reach - even in life's turbulence. My son and Spiderman will be shaped by tragic events not of their choosing throughout their lives. We all will. None of us immune from adversity.  Life is hard work. Peace is our co-worker always ready to give us a different perspective of our surroundings.

For those of us fortunate enough to remain safely along the river's edge (this time), our job is to not be afraid to get our feet wet. Peace is there tying a ribbon with you in the NW wind and rain.  Peace is there when you prepare a warm meal or pick up that pizza to deliver.  A kind word, a hug that lingers just a bit longer, a listening ear, a hand to hold, a message that says "I do care.  I am here. You are not forgotten." Peace will whisper what work needs to be done in a moment of silence.

Shhh....can you hear it?

When I looked across the street that first day at my son and Spiderman sitting on the porch I saw their childhood shadows "fishing" at the base of our small waterfall in the front garden with a stick and a string.  In my heart I hold them there.  A simple time.  Quiet waters.  This past week in my moment of silence I grabbed onto a red and white ribbon.  When I reached the river's edge there holding onto the other end was my son and Spiderman.  Their strength a testament to the ability of our youth to power through adversity and find Peace in the process.





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