“Not again,” he said.
“What?” I replied back.
“They’re killing again.”
I was struck not just by my 10-year-old son’s words, but also by my immediate, visceral reaction. The truth is, even before I asked what had happened — as I made my way around the kitchen, warming up spaghetti and hastening to fill milk cups — I already knew.
By now, I know what “not again” means.
In this year alone, I have spoken to my oldest child about the attacks that plague our world more times than I could ever have imagined; and despite my longing to keep him insulated in the lovely bubble of childhood, it is no longer a real option. I want him to be brave and explore the world, but I also want him to know about its realities. And so, I share with him limited information about what’s been going on, and who’s behind it. We talk and ponder and we keep moving forward, not trudging timidly, but stepping out in faith and confidence.
The first time we ever spoke about a terror attack was early this spring. It was right after the airport attack in Brussels. That evening, I flew alone with my four children to visit their grandparents in Miami. We talked about the news that was dominating every television screen we passed and I did my best to calm their fears about the danger for us.
The next time was Istanbul. “What did they ever do to him?” my son asked. “Absolutely nothing,” I told him, not having the heart to inform him that there were actually three attackers.
And then came yesterday, when news swirled that a truck deliberately plowed into a crowd in Nice, France, killing upwards of 80 people celebrating Bastille Day. Three times this year I’ve had to explain terrible, unspeakable acts of violence to my son, and it’s only July. Three times, and already he’s become used to the pattern.
Those words still ring in my ears, making me cringe and leaving me profoundly sad. Mass death should never be something we anticipate or expect. At least, not when it’s within human control. We may never be able to outrun Mother Nature, as we’ll sadly always face the threat of tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods — but a world where humans instigate this degree of travesty is almost too much to bear.
I want my son to rise up, embrace the world we live in, and love with his whole heart, believing always that he can make a difference.
And I will try my damndest to ensure he is never numb to death — and that I never grow numb to the words “not again” myself.More On