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I'm Jane McIntyre, a voiceover and writer, formerly an award-winning BBC radio newsreader and producer. My blog covers life, love and loss; travel, coffee and chocolate; with some heartfelt pieces in the mix about my late dad, who had dementia. Just a click away, I'm half of the team behind - two empty nesters who whizzed round the world in 57 days.

Sunday 16 December 2012

Connecticut. Love, loss--and legislation.

A glorious, chilly, sunny Sunday morning...somewhere deep in the English countryside; a couple of miles from home. A shop, selling broadsheets and tabloids in a stand; side by side in grim solidarity; their front pages a paper patchwork of grief.

 It`s what I`d come for; `the Sunday papers`; knowing they`d be full of Connecticut. The kind of story that you`re not sure you can continue watching when it`s on each gut-wrenching detail unfolds.You can look away, mute the sound, shield your eyes as if you`re watching a horror film--but this happened. This was true.

I don`t know if it hurts more, hearing details like this when you`re a parent. Any humane human, with an ounce of compassion, can relate to this one; can`t they? I tried to imagine the unimagineable. You can`t get close. I rewound to a family holiday at Disneyworld in France. Peak season; packed park; crude,clashing colours, a deafening cacophony of cartoon choruses; everyone clamouring and queuing to hug Mickey and Goofy; smiling; shrieking with delight.

Then: bang. Silence. She wasn`t there.

Our youngest; aged eight,  had slipped from our side. Your heart pounds. Your mouth is, in an instant, dry. Your vision is blurred. Your voice won`t work; won`t rise above a whisper, cracked, curdled; unheard against the pulsating, rocking, now mocking rhythms all around you.

There we were:a father, a mother, a sister, tiny dots in a heaving mass of millions, calling; saying, one name, again, and again; with growing, palpable, panic. You grab at people--have they seen her? know..eight; you think she`s eight, blonde haired...wearing what? Your mind is blank. Pink, probably; but you have no idea what your child is wearing that day. Oh, what--you`re not English? So you can`t even help? You`re enraged. It`s been one minute.

Then three minutes; then six. Then the happy families around you turn, in your mind into grotesque villains, accomplices in some unspeakable plot. A career writing, reading news headlines sends your brain into overdrive. You sense each man; every man around you has played his part in grabbing your child, passing her to another man, and another, out of the park, out of Paris, and you glare, and scream her name louder, angrily now, and the panic is pounding like nothing you`ve ever felt before; a panic you never, ever want to feel again.

Seven minutes, eight, close to ten; now; your voice is fading; you`re alone in the crowd, you`ve split up, gone your separate ways; gasping, grasping at uniformed staff, guessing wildly which way....  no one`s helping; everyone`s the enemy; and, before she is found, safe, you`re sure, as you fear the worst, that you`ll soon want to harm yourself badly, jump off a cliff; but first, kill whoever has done this; whatever `this` is, to your precious, trusting child.

Fast forward to today. And you multiply that panic ten billion times over, a hundred billion maybe and then some, and it doesn`t come close, nowhere even near it, to the panic of the Connecticut families, hearing something`s happened at the school ; and it might have happened to their child.

I got home, and tried to read the papers` version of this unspeakable tragedy. I scanned the headlines; but my eyes jumped to a quote from one of the tiny survivors, a boy, trying in the best way he could, to comfort his teacher and his classmates, as she locked them away from the gunman. ` I know karate,` he said,` so we`ll be OK`.

And you realise that at that age, you do think everything will be ok. You trust people. And you should be able to do that.

I`ll read the rest later. I just feel I owe it to the parents caught up in this, to understand what happened, and to try and get a sense of their loss, and to tell them here, in the only way I can, how much I feel for them; and will think of them in the days and months ahead.

You just hope that, along with sympathy and prayers, and love ; there`ll be legislation . Action. Some kind of awakening. To at least reduce the risk of this ever happening again.

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