I Envy His InnocenceLisa Quinones-Fontanez
When I think back to my childhood, I don’t remember growing up in a world of violence. I don’t remember bombings or mass murder.
Maybe my parents kept me sheltered from it. If they did, I am grateful.
I had the luxury of a carefree childhood. I had the luxury of growing up without worry or fear.
The innocence of my childhood ended on September 11, 2001. I was 25 years old.
Born and raised in New York City, the World Trade Center was part of my everyday life. My aunt had a hair salon there for years. My father worked blocks away. I attended college within walking distance. (The morning the Towers collapsed, I was supposed to go down to school to buy my school books.)
I will never forget the devastation and the loss, I felt on that day. Hours glued to the news, watching, crying, wondering why.
Such acts of hateful violence and mass murder against the innocent was something that belonged to another generation. And suddenly it belonged to mine.
And in these last few years, it seems like there is no safe place for our children. Not at the movies, not in our schools and not standing by the sidelines watching a marathon.
It’s cruel that this generation of children have lost their sense of innocence. It is heartbreaking that little Martin Richard died so violently when all he wanted was people to stop hurting each other and live in peace. At 8-years-old, Martin Richard, only a year older than Norrin, already knew the world could be a horrific place.
On Monday evening, I found myself torn on whether to watch the news or turn away. I opted to watch. And I cried while watching. Norrin was walking in and out of the living room – completely unaware of what I was watching, oblivious to the tragedy of the day. But when he saw me crying – he knew enough to ask why. And before I could answer, he said I was crying because I was watching a sad movie.
And I thought of myself at 7-years-old. We were totally different, Norrin and I, yet absolutely the same. We were both innocent. We both believed the world was a safe place. Because that’s what you’re supposed to believe when you are 6, 7, 8… and in a perfect world, you’d believe the world is a safe place till the end of your life. That should be the mind of a child.
I am grateful Norrin believes the world is a safe place. And I envy him. I envy my 7-year-old son with autism. I envy Norrin’s innocence. And it wasn’t the first time. I envied him after Aurora. And I envied him after Sandy Hook. I envied him on Monday evening while watching the news.
Norrin’s life, among a world of typical kids, is not easy. Norrin has more than his fair share of challenges ahead of him. But considering what’s going on in the world – he has it easy. I am grateful autism keeps Norrin sheltered. I don’t have to answer his questions, I don’t have to explain things, I myself don’t quite understand. Norrin has no worries or fear of what if. For now, Norrin has his innocence.
And I hope he can hold onto it for a long time.
Read more of Lisa’s writing at AutismWonderland.