"I'll never forget where I was when I heard the news," a friend told me. "I haven't felt this horrible since 9/11," another mom disclosed to me, just days after the Newtown massacre. In the four months since the Sandy Hook murders, I've heard that sentiment echoed hundred of times, in hundreds of ways. We each have different details that seem to hit home, but as a whole, the women of this country are forever changed.
First there was immense grief.
"One of the girls killed had my daughter's name," one mom said with deep sadness in her eyes. "I know kids with almost every single one of those names. That is who I am picturing." A mom of twins told me she can't shake the story of Noah Pozner, who leaves behind a twin sister. "What is it like for a twin to know that a part of them is gone forever? How could I ever help my kid deal with a loss like that?" she asks rhetorically over lunch one day. "Sometimes I still feel guilty when I hug my kids at night, thinking of those parents who lost everything," says another mom.
Followed by a low-grade, ever present fear.
A friend of mine, who recently gave birth to her third child, tells me, "I'm mostly OK when I go out in public. But I have strange thoughts. What if someone starts shooting? Will I throw myself on top of my daughter's stroller? Am I losing it?" On a message board, I see a mother's comment, "I haven't even begun to deal with what happened to those kids. I'm not over this." A fellow-psychologist tells me, "They did a drill at my daughter's school today. They handled it very sensitively, but I almost started to cry thinking that my 6 year old has to be prepared for something like this... She's so fragile, so small." Another mom muses on Facebook, "I can't even relax with my kids at the movies anymore. I used to love the movies."
Months later, that fear and sadness isn't gone. It's fueling action.
Despite the fact that the NRA was hoping that the memory of Newtown would soon fade, the vast majority of women are in favor of gun laws that protect public safety, including universal background checks, a limit on magazine capacity and a ban on semi-automatic weapons. "We are just two mothers who've completely had enough," two women tell me at a meeting of the state legislature. This is their first experience with political activism. "The mothers of this country have your back!" someone tweets to Erica Lafferty, daughter of the slain Sandy Hook principal. Sure enough, Lafferty is on most of the morning talk shows and cable news networks the very next day because her social media campaign has gotten the attention of our politicians.
Personally, wherever I go, I hear fellow mothers say, "We can't quit on the gun issue. We've got to keep up the fight." It's becoming a familiar refrain. The growth of Moms Demand Action, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and Americans for Responsible Solutions attest to the fact that we are transforming our sadness and fear into meaningful change. There is deep solace in the fact that we are not alone.
It is truly incredible to see women everywhere -- mothers, grandmothers, godmothers, aunts and daughters -- speaking up and speak out. We will never forget Newtown. We will never "get over" Newtown. And we have really long attention spans.
Are you listening, Congress?