We don’t talk about the first day of spring in 1974. It’s been that way for as long as I could remember. March 20th started off like any other as my 8 year old brother headed off to school wearing his blue ball cap and backpack. My mom remembers him yelling back into the house, ‘I Love You Mom” before shutting the door.
That was the last time she saw my brother, Cliff.
The Dekalb County Chief of Police told my mother we would never know what exactly happened in the bedroom of the nanny that afternoon. The police report later revealed the nanny heard Cliff begging, “Please help me.” A shot rang out. When she ran into the room it was too late. Her 12-year-old son was standing over my brother’s lifeless body. In his hands was his parent’s rifle, which he had just used to shoot my brother through the heart at point blank range.
The motive was never determined. One suspicion was the boy was possibly jealous of the affection his mother showed my brother. Cliff had been dubbed “The Mayor” by the neighborhood because of his outgoing personality. He spent many hours playing games with the seniors who lived in the complex.
Losing Cliff was too much for my mother to bear. She had recently been divorced. Within the year before my brother’s murder, she had lost her father and mother to cancer. In a rare moment of remembrance she once told me that the loss of her parents was heartbreaking enough – but the loss of Cliff was so devastating that for years she wished every breath taken would be her last.
Last Monday, like so many parents of young children across America, I found an excuse to visit my child’s classroom. As I stood outside the door of my son’s Kindergarten classroom before lunch, I heard his teacher remark to the class that there was a new rule: every classroom door was going to be closed and locked. If someone came to the door, the students were to first get the teacher before opening even if it was a parent or a fellow student.
I fought back tears as I listened to the little voices ask questions regarding the new policy and a sense of anger was rekindled. Adam Lanza not only took the lives of 26 innocent victims on December 14th, but he also stole the security of many families across this nation. Gone are the days where you could walk down a school hallway and hear a chorus of children’s voices, answering questions, or laughing at a story being read by their teacher. Now, school hallways are becoming as sterile as the corridors of a hospital. It makes one wonder if a child can really grow in such a cold, silent environment.