How long?

Last week, as I was leaving my children’s school after the morning drop-off, a fluttering thing caught my eye. I realized that it was a red and black ribbon, tacked to a tree at the end of the driveway. It had been there since February, when the whole drag had been festooned with the colours of Chardon High School after a very disturbed young man killed some of his classmates, injured others, and changed countless lives forever, including his own.
I wondered, last week, when it was that I had stopped seeing the ribbon. I guessed that over the summer the rest had come down, and this one missed; it was old and a little jaded. But it has been months since the school year began, and I have driven that driveway Monday through Friday, and I had not seen it until last week.
Two days later, I found another one, closer to the school, halfway out of the parking lot. I realized that the one at the end was not an orphan, left by accident; the ribbons had never been removed, but left to fade away. But when had I stopped seeing them?
I was horrified in February when I heard the news. Two of my former Sunday School students were at the school at the time of the shooting, and I longed to hear that they were safe, and my heart went out to their parents. I was proud of the way that they led their community in prayer and strength and comfort in the weeks that followed; but I was angry. They should never have been in that position; this was not an age-appropriate experience for two young teenagers.
I was angry, too, because this was the second time in my own daughter’s high school career that two of her friends had been present in a school where shots were fired (it was fortunate that the first time no one was harmed); the second time that children I had seen grow up in our church had been found to be in mortal danger where they should have been as safe as houses; the second time that I had had to imagine what my friends were going through, waiting for their sons to come home. Twice in four years, children from the same congregation had witnessed gunfire in their schools.
Last week, those ribbons snuck out from behind their trees one by one to accuse me of letting inertia outrun anger, resignation outlive grief. When had I stopped seeing them?
There are those who will never forget what happened last Friday, and today my heart goes out to them, I weep for them, and they are in my prayers.
But the ribbons have fixed me with their long pins: they want to know, How long will you remember this time? Long enough to make a change? Long enough that next time will never be?

About Rosalind C Hughes

Rosalind C Hughes is a priest and author living near the shores of Lake Erie. After growing up in England and Wales, and living briefly in Singapore, she is now settled in Ohio. She serves an Episcopal church just outside Cleveland. Rosalind is the author of A Family Like Mine: Biblical Stories of Love, Loss, and Longing , and Whom Shall I Fear? Urgent Questions for Christians in an Age of Violence, both from Upper Room Books. She loves the lake, misses the ocean, and is finally coming to terms with snow.
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