My Children Don’t Know.

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My children don’t know.

 

Somehow, I managed to maintain my composure after I clapped my hand over my mouth last night. As I read the text their dad sent me and my breath caught in my chest, I realized that three pairs of eyes were on me and managed to turn it around.

 

My children don’t know that dad stayed in town longer than planned in order to be available for the call out that would be inevitable. They don’t know that he is mentally going through his locker at work, taking inventory of the gear he’ll put on, where it hangs, the exact placement of every single piece of equipment he’ll need in order to respond.

 

My children don’t know that as I’m encouraging them to get their pj’s on, to brush their teeth, that entire teams of 911 dispatchers are answering calls from victims barricaded in fitting rooms at the mall, the worst night of their careers, fielding hundreds of emergency calls, somehow keeping their composure and doing their job as the city crumbles around them in fear. They don’t know about panicked employees in a shopping center a couple towns over that are slamming shut doors and hiding in broom closets, tears streaming down their cheeks as they rush to retreat.

 

My children don’t know that an entire city is locking their doors, turning off their lights, and clutching cell phones, the glow of their screens illuminating entire families hiding in fear and listening with hushed panic for the sounds of locked doors being tried from the outside.

 

My children don’t know that after I tucked them in with hugs and kisses, calm back rubs and soft words, that their mum was going to lay awake in bed for hours, staring at the ceiling in the midnight glow.

 

They don’t know. And I don’t want them to know. It’s only when I turn on the news to watch the latest press release as they eat their pancakes that I’ll give any inkling that mum needs to be alone to listen to the horror unfold even farther than it unfolded last night.

 

I can only protect them from so much, for so long.

 

My children don’t know.

 

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