The little details that make us weep for strangers as if they were family.

We as parents can hear the horrible news of the recent school shooting and feel our hearts breaking in sympathy. We know the love we have for our own children and can therefore imagine a small sliver of the devastation those parents must feel. Reading little details about the victims makes them seem familiar. One girl had just celebrated her birthday and one other loved horses. Yet another little girl had the most brilliant red hair. There was a little boy who was such a sports fan, I read that they laid him to rest in his favorite player’s jersey. These little details and photos combined make children of people we may never meet to feel as if they lived next door. The brutality leaves us stunned, but these human details have us weeping.

As I was reading about the Sandy Hook children, I learned that one boy was a twin. His sister survived as she was in a different classroom. Suddenly my heart, which was barely holding together at this point, fell into a million little pieces on the floor. This boy was no longer just like a neighbor’s child, he was like my own son. That night I could not sleep well as certainly was the case for many parents, so I found myself going into my twins’ room. I just needed to see them together. As much as I would like to always refer to them as Kieran and Clover, two separate people, they are “the twins.”
A package deal.
I think I can count on my hand the number of times they have done something without the other. Each of those times, I felt something was missing. I have thought of them as a team since I saw their flickering heartbeats on the ultrasound, sharing space in my belly. That has never changed. They sleep together, they play together. They fight and as soon as they are apart, they complain that they miss the other. They are two halves of something more than just siblings.

I can’t stop thinking about Noah’s family. His twin sister must be so lost. Her buddy, her built-in best friend, her wombmate is gone. She is only six years old. I don’t even know her name, but she is now never far from my thoughts. Every time I look at my twins, I will think of another mother and her twins. Alec and I have already discussed whether or not to put our twins into separate classes when they start school in 2014. We have a list of why we should and an equal list of reasons not to split them up. Nowhere on that list (as I am certain was nowhere on Noah’s mother’s list) is that if a gunman comes to the school, they have a better chance of survival in different classrooms.

Growing up, my friend’s parents would take two different flights to vacations just in case one of the planes crashed…I can’t live like that. I would not want my children to live like that.

I am at a loss for words about the debate over how to fix whatever is wrong in The United States. Heck, we packed up our family and moved to a different country because even five years ago, still living in Los Angeles, we just could not imagine raising our children there. My heart is broken for those families involved and for my home country.

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  • TracyDQ - beautifully written. My heart is broken too. For me, because I am a teacher, it is the story of the beautiful teacher who hid her children and lied to the gunman. It is all the stories. thank-you for these thoughts.December 18, 2012 – 3:27 pmReplyCancel

  • Rina SchiffmanPhotography via Facebook - I feel the same way. I don’t have twins, but every time I look at my almost six year old, laugh at something clever she said, or hug her back when she runs up to me saying I love you mommy, I think about all those other adorable, smart, and precious six and seven year olds… It’s just too much to bear.December 18, 2012 – 3:28 pmReplyCancel

  • Megan Akers Edwards via Facebook - 🙁 beautifully saidDecember 18, 2012 – 3:28 pmReplyCancel

  • Robin - His sister’s name is Arielle:
    I can’t stop thinking about her, either.December 18, 2012 – 3:31 pmReplyCancel

    • sesame - Thank you for that link. I have since found out that he also had an eight year old sister… I am sending as much virtual love to that mother as I can…December 18, 2012 – 5:06 pmReplyCancel

  • Imene - I haven’t been able to stop crying for the past couple of days. It breaks my heart for so many reasons I can’t even begin to tell. These children are my children’s age, our school looks like theirs and we live in a similar neighborhood…too close to home. When you loose a parent you’re an orphan, a spouse you’re a widower but loosing a child is so unnatural that there is no word for it. We moved to the US from France and this makes me want to fly back home.
    I am not sure how this can be fixed, I only know that no one needs an assault gun. It’s not for hunting nor for protection and the constitution doesn’t mention the right to bare arms for individuals but for militias so enough!December 18, 2012 – 3:52 pmReplyCancel

  • Tytia - Such lovely and heartbreaking words. Right after it happened I had to force myself to not read or watch the news, because if I did, it would overwhelm me. I cannot fathom the utter devastation and heartbreak all of those families feel. When I first read it, I was sitting in the movie theater preparing to watch The Hobbit. Tears streamed down my face the entire movie. I tried to block it from my mind, but as a mother, I could not. It’s an unfathomable occurrence. Can’t even describe the sorrow I feel for those poor families. I wish I could DO something, anything to take their pain away, but I know that’s an impossibility. I truly do not know how they will manage to cope.
    Tomorrow I have to send my son to preschool for his half day away from me. I’m scared and sick to my stomach at the thought. I know it’s irrational but I can’t shake it.
    I don’t know exactly what the solution is to this problem that seems to be mostly unique to the US, but I think it’s a multitude of things…..guns, mental health issues, the breakdown of families, the media. There are so many factors to lay blame to. I just hope a change for the better will come from all this sorrow. It has to. We, as a civilized society cannot tolerate this any longer.December 18, 2012 – 4:05 pmReplyCancel

  • Catherine - <3 love you and those twins very much xoxoDecember 18, 2012 – 4:12 pmReplyCancel

  • Natalie Barnes via Facebook - Beautifully said. My eldest boys are five and six, the age of most of the children in this tragedy, and my heart aches thinking how the families must feel. Today the first two funerals were held, both boys, and my heart broke into pieces as I thought about two beautiful boys’ lives ended too soon. I’ve spent my day being near my little ones as much as I can too. xDecember 18, 2012 – 4:17 pmReplyCancel

  • Gabbie Smith - Ever since it happened, I find it hard to walk in to my 6 yr olds classroom, look at the faces of my son and 28 of his classmates and even begin to imagine what those parents must be feeling. At this stage of my son’s first year of big school, both of us have formed strong friendships with the students and their families. I hope that a similar sense of community at Sandy Hook Elementary is what is helping those families get through this terrible grief.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts from your unique perspective.
    Much love,
    Gabs xDecember 18, 2012 – 5:03 pmReplyCancel

  • Sue Girga Fernandez via Facebook - We went to my daughter’s school holiday performance…& as I watched the 1st graders singing, in their tiny voices, it was so hard to keep tears in…@Rina is right…it’s too much to bear.December 18, 2012 – 7:07 pmReplyCancel

  • cate - Beautifully written. I read an apparent quote from Morgan Freeman where he talked of how the media is responsible for such tragedies as they elevate the gunman to a celebrity status and that the best thing that can be done is to stop talking about the perpetrator and instead to learn about the victims and report about them in the news and remember them. Whilst I believe a little gun reform wouldn’t go astray, I also think he has a good point. You have helped your readers learn enough about one of the families that we will always remember them as if they were friends. Thank you.December 18, 2012 – 8:38 pmReplyCancel

  • Andrea Dowling via Facebook - <3 to all Moms, Mums and Dads and Guardians. You just can't look at little ones at the moment without tearing up 🙁 such a sad world, God help those kids who are due to return to school theirDecember 18, 2012 – 9:01 pmReplyCancel

  • Cass - The night before last, my two year old wouldn’t go to bed. He wanted to play. He wanted to sit with us and chat. My first instinct was “no – this is meant to be our time to relax. He should be in bed. He should be asleep. I’m tired”. But then I remembered Sandy Hook and I thought about all those families that had lost a child and how they would do anything to have just a few more seconds with their sons and daughters. And I realised just how unimaginably lucky I am to have two happy, healthy children. Two children that I can hold. Two children that break things and have tantrums and sometimes won’t go to bed. There are people out there who would give anything to have the luxury of a child who won’t put his or her toys away. Whether they are parents who have had their children cruely taken away from them (by accident, by sickness or by the sick mind of a deranged individual), or whether they are people who have fought to be parents and been defeated. I am so incredibly lucky. How could I possibly take that for granted? My son got to stay up. I held him tights and breathed in the baby sweat, the damp nappy, the sticky fingers, the unwashed hair and I resolved to be more patient. To enjoy every one of these moments while they last. Because I can’t stop them from going to school or from seeing friends. I can’t stop them from growing up and moving away. And I won’t be able to protect them forever from making silly mistakes. I can only do my best to give them the knowledge and the tools to protect themselves. And, for now, I can enjoy every second they give me to be their mother and to hold them tight. So I will. Even if it’s at 10pm and I’m desperate for some peace and quiet.December 18, 2012 – 10:29 pmReplyCancel

  • Diana - One of the little girls who died is named Charlotte. A tiny six year old girl with the same name as my baby. I can’t stop thinking about her, this little Charlotte that I’ve never met, can’t stop putting my own into her shoes. There are no words to describe this level of horror. None.December 19, 2012 – 12:48 amReplyCancel

  • Jaida - I’ve been really curious to know what people in other countries must be thinking about America right now. My husband is in England and we lived there for several years before making our home back here in the states (though we moved from LA to Minnesota, I also couldn’t fathom raising our kids in that city). I don’t even know what to feel about the unique horror that only seems to happen here. What IS wrong? There is so much that is right about this country and yet somehow there are people being born and raised through formative years to become these…well, I don’t even know the word.

    What is the perspective of the others in your adopted country? Does Australia have a ban on guns like England?December 19, 2012 – 1:23 amReplyCancel

    • Leah - I know that back in the 90s there was a mass shooting at a school in Ireland. So I really don’t think it was just the US that has these problems. Plus that guy in Japan knifed a bunch of kids. I don’t think there is a particular something “wrong” in the United States different than other countries, because tragedies happen there too; however, I do agree that something needs to be done-globally-against violence and for peace. I feel somewhat insulted, though, by Rachel’s comment about there being something particularly wrong here and how unimaginable it would be to raise her kids here. My children attend school in the US, and I couldn’t love their schools more. The teachers do their best to protect the students and teach them and I do feel mostly safe dropping them off there every day. One horrific and terrible crime does not turn the US into a country of bad schools that parents should not want their kids to attend, and the US certainly is not the only country where bad things happen.December 19, 2012 – 10:02 amReplyCancel

      • sesame - Sorry that you feel insulted, but it is not just ONE thing that happened in The Untied States…it is MANY that keep happening without change. Also it was China not Japan where children were stabbed on the same day and not one of them died. Nightly there were gunshots in my neighborhood in Los Angeles. To me it is UNIMAGINABLE to raise MY children in that kind of environment. There are a lot of things wrong with a lot of places, but I am not sure that aside from the IRA troubles, Ireland has ever had a school shooting. I never said it was the ONLY country where bad things happen, but Here are a few references for you.
        This one back in July before TWO more happened in the states:
        This one now: 19, 2012 – 10:18 amReplyCancel

        • Leah - Actually sorry, I was just coming back to correct myself about Japan and Ireland- totally my mistake, and really, really dumb. I actually recently heard that Japan is one of the safest places to live as far as violence so that was a major error on my end. However, my point remains the same- that other countries have troubles, too. And to assume that I am a right-wing advocate for guns, that is incorrect. I actually am a strong advocate for gun control (although I do try to keep in mind that it’s a right in our Constitution. I just think we should restrict who is allowed to own them and what type that should be accessible). I have been to Australia for vacation, not lived there though, and I am sure it’s a great country with great schools. You might find this interesting- in general, it appears that the US does not have more crime incidents than Australia (now, I’m not talking about major insane things like the shooting in Connecticut):
          And this: (again, gun violence clearly is a greater problem here. But there are problems elsewhere).
          Regardless of weapon type or country, people will cause evil.December 19, 2012 – 11:34 amReplyCancel

          • Fe - Hi Leah…

            I think we agree about stricter gun control then. I’m not advocating removing them altogether, just the removal of semi-automatics altogether and very strict regulation of handguns.

            Interestingly though, I think both of your links support the argument that Australia is a much safer place to live.

            What is without question is that we are very privileged to live in either of them 🙂December 20, 2012 – 10:25 am

      • Fe - Leah… have you been to Australia? Have you lived anywhere other than the US? It’s not that the US is so bad.. it’s that, if you have the freedom to choose to live in a country which has all of the good and nowhere near as much of the bad, it’s very difficult not to move there.

        There is so much wonderful about the US. In particular it’s people. But there is a fundamental right-wing gun culture which is unique to the US that those of us who live elsewhere simply cannot understand.December 19, 2012 – 10:41 amReplyCancel

        • sesame - Thank you, Fe. Exactly.December 19, 2012 – 10:47 amReplyCancel

      • sesame - PPS, By Ireland, do you mean Scotland and the Dunblane school shooting? As in the case of China not being Japan, Scotland is not Ireland.December 19, 2012 – 10:50 amReplyCancel

        • Leah - I actually feel terrible about my previous grumpy and un-fact checked comments after reading your post today. If that happened to me at my house, I’d pack my bags and my family and go somewhere safer too- maybe not Australia (high housing costs, even though it’s so beautiful and safe!) but somewhere else! So I hope you’ll forgive me and I hope to continue enjoying your blog in the future:)! I really feel awful about my judgmental comments that were out of place during this time of mourning.December 20, 2012 – 9:42 amReplyCancel

  • Jaida - I’ve been really curious to know what people in other countries must be thinking about America right now. My husband is from England and we lived there for several years before making our home back here in the states (though we moved from LA to Minnesota, I also couldn’t fathom raising our kids in that city). I don’t even know what to feel about the unique horror that only seems to happen here. What IS wrong? There is so much that is right about this country and yet somehow there are people being born and raised through formative years to become these…well, I don’t even know the word.

    What is the perspective of the others in your adopted country? Does Australia have a ban on guns like England?December 19, 2012 – 1:24 amReplyCancel

    • sesame - Australia had this happen. Once. In the 1990’s. Then the conservative government said “AH, HELL NO.” and changed the laws. Over 650,000 guns were bought back and the country is much much much better off. Are there still guns? Yep. Are there occasional shootings? Yep. Is it a lot safer than the states with people holding up 7-11s with baseball bats more often than guns? Yep, again.December 19, 2012 – 9:59 amReplyCancel

  • Betty - Oh I had wondered if there were any twins. So sad. I’ve been hugging mine so very close.December 19, 2012 – 2:06 amReplyCancel

  • Michelle Schwalenstöcker via Facebook - This made me cry… love how you wrote it and what a meaning it has… may your twins will be save forever <3December 19, 2012 – 5:20 amReplyCancel

  • Aimee - Rachel, I feel the same way about not wanting to raise my kids in the United States. I feel like I don’t know how to be a mother in the US with all the exterior things going on for me to worry about. Raising my family in France I feel safe. I live in a big city and sure there is the danger of getting hit by a bus or falling down the metro stairs but never the danger of getting shot at school or not having health insurance for my babies. When i drop my children off at school I know they are safe. Safer than any school in the US. I can’t wrap my mind around what happened in CT. My son is the age of the kids who were killed and if it happened to me… I just don’t know. All I know is I am grateful for the life I live in France and would not change it for anything.December 19, 2012 – 10:30 amReplyCancel

    • sesame - Yes, thank you.December 19, 2012 – 10:40 amReplyCancel

  • tara pollard pakosta - it’s scaring me what people are capable of….
    my girls aren’t twins, they are very much like twins though, at 19 months apart,
    they sleep in the same bed, they spend almost every waking moment together, where
    you find one, you find the other, they have always been this way and I hope they always stay the same.
    people always think they are twins because they’ve always been the same weight and height since they were 4-5 years
    old…they are best friends. I can’t IMAGINE what the bond of a twin is like, how much more so that bond is held tight.
    that poor little girl, left behind to feel the empty spot and to have to fill in those shoes.
    love this post and I am def. wondering where to move if it becomes any worse here! it’s out of control!
    taraDecember 19, 2012 – 10:30 amReplyCancel

  • Sarah P - This was beautifully written. I have a lot of friends and some family with twins and thought the same, that these parents couldn’t have ever known what the choice for the kids to be in separate classes would mean. As far as the US discussion is concerned, I absolutely agree with you. I have been thinking the only safe way out of this is to move because nothing is being done. Can I ask how you chose Australia? Do you or your husband have family there?December 19, 2012 – 12:18 pmReplyCancel

  • Megan - When I was in 4th grade, a drunk driver crashed into my best friends house and killed one of her little brothers who was sleeping on the couch. He was a twin. It broke my heart even then to think of his surviving brother who would grow up with out his other half. Now, as an adult and a mom, its even more mind boggling. I cant fathom loosing my children, but Its even harder to think of one of my (not twin) boys losing the other. 🙁December 19, 2012 – 1:18 pmReplyCancel

  • Vicki Verross Devine via Facebook - Rachel this was wonderfully written and heart-wrenching. Give the twins hugs (and Gemma too) from their aunt and uncle.December 19, 2012 – 2:01 pmReplyCancel

  • Karen Linnell - Serious question… Do you need special connections to be able to move to Australia? Do they restrict immigration?
    I would love to move my family there if we could. The only thing holding me back is the spiders!
    I love the idea of universal health care, safe public transportation, much less access to guns!!!December 19, 2012 – 3:27 pmReplyCancel

  • Karen Linnell - Is there a need for a physical therapist and fireman? We already have Australian sheppards!December 19, 2012 – 3:41 pmReplyCancel

  • melbo - We have a dual American/Australian house here too and my American spouse feels the same as you. Just for what it’s worth.

    I have been trying to avoid sad … I’m angry and stuck there. I’m trying not to personalise it further. I have a six year old whom we tried to shield from this knowledge. The first thing he told us on Monday night was about this tragedy and unbelievably, he heard it from kids in his own grade. This made me even angrier.December 19, 2012 – 3:54 pmReplyCancel

  • PJ - Rachel, I’m a twin and my biggest worry growing up was anything happening to her.
    My 7 y/o niece (my twin’s daughter) wasn’t too ill to make her way to school on Friday, she was just feeling a need for a day at home so I stayed with her and was able to paint, hug her, watch a little tv, and I couldn’t stop thinking about those parents, how much they would have given to have a day of hooky.
    I do think all countries have risks for children (think the no regret killer of the Norway massacre) and I see all countries being corrupted.
    I think Hollywood and gamemakers keep cranking out the violence and NO one is stopping them — they are buying them. We are suffering the erosion of values. Did you see all the horror films out for Thanksgiving? Parents have to stand up and not pay for these things to enter their home and their children’s psyche. As for guns, we don’t live on the frontier anymore. The amendment doesn’t apply. We aren’t protecting our property, unless our property is our wives and children who end up shot. No one needs a riffle.
    On a positive note, it’s such a blessing to be a photographer and to create portraits of people who are loved and may sadly slip from our earth too early. Make beautiful portraits people.December 19, 2012 – 4:00 pmReplyCancel

  • Nicole - I know our gun laws in Australia were changed after the Port Arthur shooting, it’s a pity the same can’t happen in the USA. Such a devastating thing to happen. 19, 2012 – 4:48 pmReplyCancel

  • bec - Noah had a twin named arielle and an 8 year old sister tooDecember 26, 2012 – 1:56 pmReplyCancel