Like everyone else, I felt sick when I turned on the television yesterday and learned at least 14 people had been killed, and 10 more wounded, during a party at a center for the developmentally disabled in San Bernardino, California.
Today, the details emerging from the massacre keep getting more stomach-turning. Like that the accused couple behind the shooting, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, have a 6-month-old daughter, who they dropped at her grandmother's house before murdering more than a dozen innocent people.
And the accused planned their attack in advance, as San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan explained at a press conference, "These people came prepared to do what they did as if they were on a mission. They were armed with long guns, not with handguns."
Although their exact motive is not known, witnesses say Farook may have been involved in a fight before the shooting took place. But terrorism has not been ruled out.
The suspects were later killed in a police shoot out.
Of course, we are learning more about what happened in San Bernardino by the hour. But for now, this incident leaves many questions unanswered. The main two on my mind:
1. Was this an isolated incident?
2. How can I make sure my family is safe?
We can only pray the answer to the first question is "yes." And sadly, with regards to the latter, there are no guarantees that another shooting won't happen where we live, especially given a few deeply alarming facts I learned today: 31 percent of mass shootings happen in our country, and they are becoming so frequent, a new statistic says in 2015, there have been more mass shootings than days in the year.
Clearly this epidemic problem is way out of hand, and something must be done.
But the issue of gun legislation has become highly politicized, and it seems impossible our lawmakers will ever agree on how to solve what just may be the biggest crisis facing our nation. As an extremely concerned parent, I wish there was some way to cut through the politics, and get to the heart of the issue: as Americans, we don't feel safe anymore. We don't feel safe at the mall, or the market, or when we go to church, or send our kids to school! This just shouldn't be.
Whether it's through stricter gun laws, or more vigorous mental health screening requirements to obtain guns, or through a restructuring of our mental health system in general, or tighter security at office buildings, religious and shopping centers, and schools, let's do something, anything, everything, and let's do it now. Before more innocent people die.
Meanwhile, this morning I put my daughter on the school bus with a now-familiar lump in my throat. I'd already made the decision not to tell her, or her two younger sisters, about what happened yesterday. They are too young in my view, and I refuse to shatter their innocence unless I have to. But that doesn't take away my nearly all-consuming worry.
For parents who would like to discuss the shooting with their children, Matthew Oransky, Ph.D., psychologist and the director of psychology training at the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center, offers this advice: "If you stay calm when talking about the event, it's more likely your child will, too." He tells Parents.com, "Your reaction is the number-one predictor of your child's response. By staying calm, talking about the events in an age-appropriate but honest way, and maintaining normal routines, you're helping your child develop resilience and coping skills."
What's your take?
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.