Dylan's fifth birthday.
The level of pain in his voice could mean only one thing: Something had happened to one of our sons. In the seconds that passed as I picked up the phone and dialed our house, panic swelled within me; it felt as though millions of tiny needles were pricking my skin. My heart pounded in my ears. My hands began shaking. I tried to orient myself. One of my boys was at school and the other was at work. It was the lunch hour. Had there been a car accident?
When my husband picked up the phone, he shouted, "Listen to the television!"—then held out the receiver so I could hear. I couldn't understand the words being broadcast, but the fact that whatever had happened was big enough to be on TV filled me with terror. Were we at war? Was our country under nuclear attack? "What's happening?" I shrieked.
He came back on the line and poured out what he'd just learned during a distraught call from a close friend of our 17-year-old son, Dylan: There was some kind of shooting at the high school…gunmen in black trenchcoats were firing at people…the friend knew all the kids who wore trenchcoats, and all were accounted for except Dylan and his friend Eric…and Dylan and Eric hadn't been in class that morning…and no one knew where they were.
My husband had told himself that if he found the coat, Dylan couldn't be involved. He'd torn the house apart, looking everywhere. No coat. When there was nowhere left to look, somehow he knew the truth. It was like staring at one of those computer-generated 3-D pictures when the abstract pattern suddenly comes into focus as a recognizable image.
I barely got enough air in my lungs to say, "I'm coming home." We hung up without saying goodbye.
My office was 26 miles from our house. All I could think as I drove was that Dylan was in danger. With every cell in my body, I felt his importance to me, and I knew I would never recover if anything happened to him. I seesawed between impossible possibilities, all of them sending me into paroxysms of fear. Maybe no one knew where Dylan was because he'd been shot himself. Maybe he was lying in the school somewhere injured or dead. Maybe he was being held hostage. Maybe he was trapped and couldn't get word to us. Maybe it was some kind of prank and no one was hurt. How could we think for even a second that Dylan could shoot someone? Shame on us for even considering the idea. Dylan was a gentle, sensible kid. No one in our family had ever owned a gun. How in the world could he be part of something like this?