When something bad happens, my instinct is to distance myself from it as much as I can, so that I can believe it would never happen to me. It's in a different part of the world, a different country, a different area, at a place I would never be, happening to people who couldn't be me.
I'm pretty sure this is human nature, to convince ourselves that we're safe even if others aren't. They weren't just unlucky, they were in some more inherently risky environment. They live near a volcano, on a fault line, in the tropics, in a place where bad things happen. Not here.
Today's tragedy didn't happen here, but my list of reasons why it couldn't are dwindling. It happened in a nice town near a big city, on this side of the country, not a million miles away. It happened to children in an elementary school; just the sort of elementary school my son attends.
My intitial gut reaction was that we should go back to Ireland. My second was that homeschooling would be the safest option. (I have nothing against the school system. I don't blame the school, in any way. I just felt that if these things are happening in schools, then I don't want my kids to be there.)
I have no intention of homeschooling and we're probably not moving back to Ireland any time soon. Terrible things happen, no matter how much you try to protect your loved ones. I could homeschool my children on Achill Island, and they could fall off a cliff instead.
The people in my town went through a terrifying time ten years ago when the so-called "Beltway sniper" was shooting very close to here. I can't imagine the stress of bringing your children to school, putting gas in your car, getting off a bus - and knowing that someone doing exactly that had been picked off by a gunman lying in wait, just a few miles away. That went on for weeks. Anyone who lived here then can't even put up my feeble "It would never happen here" defense - they know better.
I don't know what an optimist is supposed to say today.
But you can go here and shed a few tears for a joyful reason, maybe, and think that the world isn't so bleak after all.