A parent’s familiar dread, after Las Vegas mass shooting

By Heidi Stevens

You scan the faces of the other parents at drop-off.

You check for knowledge. For fear. For grief.

Every one of your parental instincts tells you not to kiss your children goodbye and send them into a school building. It’s as if you’re tearing off both of your arms and pretending to proceed as normal.

Nothing is normal. It’s familiar. It’s not normal.

Your morning was typical, and then you checked your phone. Your heart broke. Again.

People have been shot. Dozens upon dozens of people. Just hours earlier, they were outside listening to music. Now more than 50 of them are dead. Hundreds of lives are forever changed. Their wounds, at least the psychological wounds, will never fully heal.

You want better. You want change. You want it to stop. You wanted it to stop after Virginia Tech. After Sandy Hook Elementary. After Fort Hood. After Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal in Charleston, S.C. After Pulse.

You want your children to live in a world where it’s harder to slaughter people. You want them to live in a country that tries harder to stop the slaughter.

You want to believe one of these mass shootings will be the one. The one that makes us decide assault rifles don’t make us safer. (How can a good guy with a gun stop a bad guy shooting from 32 stories above the ground?)

You have a doctor’s appointment for your son in the afternoon. It’s a routine checkup. She’ll ask if you have any concerns.

She can’t solve your concerns. You’re concerned he’ll be murdered. You’re concerned a gunman will open fire on his playground, his classroom, his college campus, a concert he’s attending with his girlfriend when he’s 23.

He’s 8. You’ve had this concern every day of his life. His sister is 11. His stepbrother is 16. Your concerns are in triplicate. They’ll never go away.

You know mothers live with this fear daily. Mothers in your own city — far, far too many mothers — have watched this fear show up, fully realized, at their doorsteps and rob their children of life. Mass shootings capture our attention, but every gun death is an outrage.

You can’t give in to the fear. You have to pretend, in fact, that it’s not there. You have to send your kids to playgrounds and classrooms and colleges and concerts.

So you scan the faces of the other parents at drop-off.

You check for guidance. For courage. For faith that we’re doing the right thing, saying goodbye to our children on this terrible morning.

You’re not sure. Until something changes — really changes — you’ll never be sure.


By Heidi Stevens

Heidi Stevens is a Chicago Tribune columnist. Readers may send her email at [email protected].

Heidi Stevens is a Chicago Tribune columnist. Readers may send her email at [email protected].