Today I was greeted at the doors of the Jewish Community Center where Zack attends preschool with the chaos of staff attempting to communicate with rushed parents at drop off. We were told by reception to speak with the Executive Director before leaving. I saw a semi circle of parents surrounding her. Did someone die or quit? What is going on? I joined a group of parents all wearing the same look of concern on their bewildered faces.
I was quickly told that the JCC had received a threat for this very day because it is a Jewish holiday and the center is holding an all night prayer and study session. She explained that the threat was overheard and reported to the police who investigated it and determined that it was not in fact valid. As a precaution, police patrol of the area was stepped up and the bags of any unknown individuals were to be searched. That scenario didn't give me a whole lot of comfort. I envisioned our cheery red head receptionist searching a shady character's bag and stumbling upon a bomb. What in the hell is she going to do about it? "I am so sorry sir, but no bombs allowed, your going to have to leave." Right.
We were assured that the police thought the center was safe and that although it was our decision we should feel comfortable leaving our kids there. Zack was tugging at my jacket anxious to get to his classroom. It was a big day. Although it is a holiday (Shavuot) I did not grow up celebrating, it seems to be a beautiful celebration. The children were taught that it was a day to give thanks for all of the new things that spring brings; fruits & vegetables, and a time to study and learn. As is custom, the preschoolers had decorated baskets and filled them with fruits and vegetables. They made flower garlands to wear on their heads and were all going to march around the JCC with baskets in hand, singing songs. Zack was truly excited about the day, particularly since I was going to be joining him for the party at noon.
I took Zack to his classroom and felt the nervous energy of the other parents. We all looked at each other, hoping that someone would think of something smart to do in the situation. The room was full, and it appeared that many parents had already made the decision to leave their children at school. I spoke with one of the mothers that I am friendly with and she was torn as well. I called my husband and asked him what he thought. Ultimately we decided that it was *probably* nothing. It was *probably* just some anti-Semitic fool talking smack at a Starbucks. If I took Zack home I would be the one over-reacting parent and Zack would miss out on a celebration that he had been looking forward to for weeks. So I kissed him goodbye made him look me in the eye and told him I would be back at noon.
As I drove off I wondered if I was being tragically optimistic. Probably nothing. Probably. And if it's not? And if some crazy religious zealot comes storming in with a gun, what then? If something happened to Zachary and I had the ability to prevent it how could I live with myself? I almost turned back, but somehow I took comfort in the fact that the other parents had made the same decision.
I feel incredibly angry that we live in a world post the Oklahoma City Bombing, post 9/11, post Columbine, where anything feels possible. Today we hear stories of children being slaughtered in the preschools and kindergartens of China, and we wonder will we have a US copycat? Are we ever really safe? Truth be told we are probably not. Every time we get on an airplane, every time we send our kids to school, every time we step out our front door there is risk. Minimal risk, but it's there none the less. So what do we do? Never take a trip? Keep our kids at home, stay hunkered down and isolated "just in case"?
I realized today that I will make thousands of decisions on behalf of my children. *Probably* none of them will be in life or death situations, but one can never know. Did those parents who carefully selected the the federal building of Oklahoma City for their daycare center make a bad decision by choosing a government facility? Perhaps they had the best child to caregiver ratio. Should Natalee Holloway's parents have known better, and never let her take that fateful spring break trip to Aruba? All that drinking, it only means trouble right? But then again, my own husband took a spring break trip his senior year and survived with happy memories.
So we hope and pray that we make the right choices and that we keep our babies safe and sound. We want to believe that we have the power to keep them out of harms way and far from the evil we see around us, but the reality is we simply can't. We are not God. We are not fortune tellers. We can only do what we can do, and make the best choices possible in the moment.
And pray that it is good enough.