August 31, 2012 in Random Thoughts
7:00pm Tuesday, August 28: At the End of Soccer Practice
-Wow! What’s all that?
-It’s a fire truck and an ambulance!
-And the police too…something is going on somewhere.
– Can we follow them?
-Did you see all those flashing lights?
-They’re going somewhere in a hurry.
My children have lived their entire lives two blocks away from the elementary school they attend.
In the beginning, it wasn’t our school; it was our playground. My oldest would push his green and yellow John Deere lawnmower all over the neighborhood, finally winding up at school. He’d slide down the slides, climb up various structures as far as he could, and try to balance on the raised, green stepping stones that led from one play structure to another.
As he got older, he became obsessed with mastering the monkey bars while the newest addition to our family pushed a blue and white stroller with a rotating stuffed animal as the passenger on the sidewalk encircling the playground. Now we had enough people to play tag, hide and seek, Tickle Monster, and Hot Lava Monster, especially if the stuffed animal participated.
Not long after that, it was the three of us plus my infant making trips to the playground. I watched my two older sons cavort and play as I made laps on the bark chips, hoping my baby would fall asleep soon so I could stop bouncing.
Tuesday, August 28: From Facebook
8:08pm What has happened @ [our school]? Police & fire, not good?
8:25pm …they had just put yellow tape up around the perimeter. I don’t know what it means but it [is] worrisome.
9:06pm …was in contact with teachers who were not allowed to leave. I think they are leaving now though.
9:20pm The police seem to be focused on [the] playground and that first portable area.
It wasn’t just a school; it was our deluxe backyard. The kids rode their bikes, tearing around the empty parking lot and over the speed bumps. They rode their scooters down ramps and off curbs, pretending they were the next Shaun Whites.
On rainy days, we made our way to the under-covered area where the kids could shoot hoops and get a little fresh air after being cooped up for so long.
We waddled to the school wrapped in our snow pants, jackets, mittens, and hats, pulling our sleds behind us over the snow and ice. We were headed to the good hill behind the portables where someone has always built a jump.
The playground was a gathering place; you’d never know which friends you might run into. Kids could play with whoever showed up and us moms could sit on the steps, watching and catching up for a few uninterrupted minutes.
Wednesday, August 29: From E-Mail
Info About The Tragedy At [Our School]
You may have heard on the media by now that a tragedy took place on [our] playground last night…
For 12 years, the elementary school’s playground has been our own.
Tuesday night, a small family came to the playground on a warm August night, just as we have thousands of times. Two four-year old children, a boy and a girl—twins—were ready to play. The boy was eager to pick blackberries along the fence, and the little girl had brought a jump rope. The adult caregiver accompanied the boy to help with the blackberries, while the little girl entertained herself on the slide.
I can’t begin to imagine what happened in those next moments. Why did the little girl think to wrap the jump rope around her neck as she sat on the slide? Did it get too tight? Did it get tangled up around her or around something on the playground structure that prevented her from being able to unravel it?
What did her brother and caregiver find when they returned from picking blackberries? What did the teachers, working late to get ready for the first day of school, think when they heard shouts for help or the wail of sirens that didn’t pass by, but stayed with lights that flashed and flashed and flashed….
What did the neighbors think when they heard the commotion and peeked out their windows onto the school playground that they’ve lived adjacent to for years?
What did the EMT personnel find when they arrived on the playground?
Wednesday, August 29: From the Internet
…a 4-year-old girl has died after accidentally strangling herself with a jump rope at a playground…
It says a lot, and yet it says nothing at all.
A simple length of rope…
This happened on the Tuesday following the weekend where a member of our community, a 14-year-old boy about to enter our high school, took his own life.
With a piece of rope.
A simple length of rope.
Our community is saddened and shaken by these events.
It is surreal to walk down the street to the mailboxes and encounter a news van parked in front of the little girl’s house. Seeing the bouquets of flowers and balloons tied to the fence that encloses our school is heart wrenching. I mourn for the little girl and what she went through in the last moments of her life, and for all the life she had ahead of her. I mourn for her family and loved ones, and I mourn for the lost innocence of our beloved school.
“It’s haunted, Mom. The playground’s haunted.”
“Well, if it is, then it’s also haunted by the thousands of happy memories that have occurred on that playground over the years.”
Our school is special; I’ve always known this. The children, the teachers, the staff, the parents, the community…it’s more than just a school. It’s our home.
And now this little girl has a place in it all her own—in our hearts, in our prayers, and in our memories.