I was at the downtown library chaperoning a field trip for my daughter’s sixth grade class, when I saw an innocent picture of a baby. And it made me cry.
We had gone to the library to work on their research papers. But there was something about this day that made everyone want to cry.
This was the day after the hideous Columbine school killings and everyone was walking around just a little numb.
I couldn’t help but look around me at the children busily working on the projects and realize that they were only a few years younger than those thirteen children who were murdered at school the day before. But I also had to face the fact that they were only a few years younger than the two killers as well.
When this happened, I wanted so badly to label the murderers as monsters. But the fact remains, the most important label we must recognize is that they, too, were children.
How can ones so young be filled with hatred so strong that they are driven to do something so horrid in a place where we parents believed was a haven for learning?
Again, the picture of the baby haunts me.
Years ago, when I sent my oldest off to kindergarten for the first time I was scared. I was scared about the real world finally touching the daughter I had been able to protect for five too-short years.
But, truthfully, I was scared for the little hurts I feared my child would have to endure. I was worried some child would not want to sit next to her on the bus. I worried she would feel sad if chosen last for a team in gym class. I worried she might get her feelings hurt by a classmate.
I never thought to worry that another child might one day bring a gun to school and start shooting.
Every day, we parents must trust that the bus drivers who daily transport our children are physically and mentally healthy.
We have to assume that the teachers educating our children are academically and morally good.
We believe that all the students who attend school with our children, are basically the same as ours.
But not all are.
And when children so dramatically fall through a societal crack as the ones did that frightening day, the whole world can hear the thud.
For this reason the picture of the baby made me cry. To think that a child enters this world full of promise and purity and somehow makes such a wrong turn on the journey that is their life, is more than I can bear.
I stare at the picture for the last time. I see the small pouting lips attempting a smile. I notice the soft, full head of dark hair. I smile at the full, rosy checks. And then I shut the book, trying hard not to notice the caption underneath the picture:
“ Austria , 1889. Adolf Hitler.”