The headlines say it all. “20 children among the 28 killed in Connecticut slaughter.” Those whose lives were only just beginning, their innocence barely touched, gone in a flash. The recent school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut has left not only our country, but also the entire world stunned and hearts everywhere, shattered. Whether or not you are a parent, no one can escape the tragedy that is now identified as the second deadliest school shooting ever in the United States.
Like millions watching the story unfold, Grow Mama readers are struggling to make sense of this extreme act of violence. They sort their thoughts out with us here, in their own words.
Last Tuesday night, my thirteen-year-old son and I had the “argument of the year”. He was in trouble for being rude and disrespectful to one of his teachers. After speaking with his teachers and assistant principal, I braced myself for the face-to face confrontation awaiting me. On my drive home, I was mentally preparing what I would say to him and all the different ways to punish him. When I walked through the door and saw him, I did not even return his “Asalamu Alaykum Mama.” I just frowned and walked right past him.
Today, after hearing about the tragic loss of so many lives in the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, I can’t stop the tears from streaming down my face. At first I felt shock, after all, these were just mere children that were murdered. Then, I kept putting myself in the shoes of those parents anxiously waiting outside the school, waiting to hear if their child had fallen victim to this atrocity.
I send my own children off to public school every morning, five days a week, never once thinking that there is a chance that they are not coming home. I thought back to all of the week’s events, small, trivial and frivolous upsets that kept me from kissing or hugging my kids.
From now on, I promise to think twice before yelling at my beautiful six-year-old for “spitting funny” while rinsing his mouth. And I promise to keep my cool when my nine-year-old puts away her Barbie dolls in the wrong box when cleaning up. And I will appreciate that moment when my 13 year old picks me up off the floor hugging and squeezing me until it hurts.
-Wesam Hassanin, Farmingville, NY
Allah allows the world to work on us. What do I mean by that? I mean that if you drive your car off a cliff, Allah will not reach a hand down from heaven and pluck you from the driver’s seat. He will allow the laws of physics to work on you and gravity will bring you to an inexorable end.
Part of this allowing the world to work on us is that Allah gave human beings free will. He gave us the freedom to be good or bad. The bad people do bad things. They shoot, stab, punch and kick, and Allah does not put a magical force barrier between the bullet and the victim.
The reality is that this world is a place of strife and testing. And sometimes the tests put before us are messy or mundane, and often go unrecognized as a way to earn grace.
Your test might be breast cancer. Or diabetes and poking yourself with a needle three times a day. Or raising an autistic child, or one with a terminal illness. A car that breaks down on the way to a job interview. Bipolar disorder. Rape in a refugee camp. Rape on campus. Death in an Amish schoolhouse. Death in a Connecticut schoolhouse.
Our tests are sometimes collective but they are always deeply individual. The disaster that makes one person abandon faith will send another to his knees in prayer. We can’t belittle the individual death because it was not a big enough disaster to make the evening news, and we have to remember that even a mass killing is made up of many individual deaths that many individual loved ones will have to process and learn to cope with. Their tests. Our test too, as we view from afar and question how such a thing could happen.
My test is to teach my children to believe in God, to believe that this world is not their final destination, that if they stay on the side of good, they will be in Jannah. That the length of a life is less important than how it is lived. If I could offer a word of comfort to the grieving parents of the children killed in Newtown, I would just remind them that the children go to Allah with a clean accounting and will be in Jannah. The job of those left behind is to learn what to do now so they can be reunited with them after they are resurrected. That is their new test.
I ask Allah to grant guidance to all the people who have good hearts and even a mustard grain of faith, and that the pains they suffer in this world will be an expiation of sins for them.
-Nancy Qualls-Shehata, Fredericksburg, Virginia