I dropped my 23-month old son, Eddie, off at daycare, and as I opened the door to leave the building, a man in a black t-shirt came through the door, and said, “Thanks. It was locked.”
And it was. Ever since the massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in which 20 children and six adults were gunned down, our daycare, which is in a local church, locks its doors to the public. The school’s director now stands outside the front door of the daycare from 9:00 to 9:15 a.m. to allow everyone to enter. At 9:15 a.m., the door is shut, and you have to buzz the church administrator upstairs to let you in. I know this because I’m late almost every day, and the poor woman upstairs is forced to come down all the stairs to get me and my son. This morning was one of those days.
“Can I help you?” I said to the man, as if I worked for the school.
“I’m with the (inaudible), and I wanted to get myself a cup of coffee. Do you know where the cafeteria is?”
I knew there was a cafeteria down the hall from the daycare. It’s where I take Zumba classes twice a week. But before I could answer him, he was halfway down the stairs and heading for the inner door that led to the daycare. I went down the stairs after him and got to the inner doorway before he did.
“I’ll see if I can help you,” I said and opened the door.
The first person I saw was my neighbor, Meredith, who is a teacher at the daycare.
“This guy says he’s from a church group, and he wants some coffee in a cafeteria?”
“It’s all right. I’ve got it,” Meredith said.
“It’s okay?” I said.
“It’s fine,” she said.
I turned around and walked back out of the daycare. As I emerged at the top of the stairs and walked out of the building, I saw three vans double-parked outside that said Calvary Chapel. There was a caravan of them. They were volunteers, who had been working down by the beach, helping to rebuild the boardwalk in my town which had been badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy. For a few months now, these volunteers have been working tirelessly, deconstructing what was left of the boardwalk and then sorting through the debris, dividing them into piles of large pieces, which will be saved and used later, and smallpieces, which will be discarded. The man who had walked in the building was part of that group and had apparently walked in the wrong door of the church in search of coffee.
When I saw the vans, I cried for a moment, for the horror that befell those little children in Newtown, for the horror that at any time could come to my own child, and for the horror we now see when it’s not even there.