God’s cradle: Reflecting on Parkland

Andrew’s opinion column

Andrew Atkins

San Antonio, Texas was surprisingly cold last week. Cold, though, is relative and I was still able to wear shorts without any discomfort most of the time I was there. I was sad to leave.

My flight took off at 6:55 a.m. The plane shuddered through the misty morning, hurtling down the runway. It shook off the water clinging to its skin, and little rivulets of water slid across the window. The drops fell to the ground, but soon the water will evaporate back up into the atmosphere where it will fall down somewhere else. Nobody knows whose lips it will cross, what earth it will water, where it will fall again.

Crossing the threshold of the sky, I couldn’t see anything.  Clouds wrapped around us. Us — so many strangers carried on the back of this strange, unthinking, immeasurably powerful creature.

We rose from the clouds alongside the sun. For a moment, I worried. I worried that this great weight in the pit of my stomach would hold us back. Time held its breath for just a moment, and with its exhale the moment was gone.

My mind wandered to my sister, my nieces. My sister has three little girls and a fourth on the way. Saydee is 1, Aubri is 6 and Lilyan is 7.

“Uncle Andrew is crying,” Aubri said.

“Of course I’m crying,” I answered.

“Why are you crying, Uncle Andrew?” Lily asked.

“Because I’m going to miss you.”

I held Saydee for a hug and kissed her little cheeks, the brown curls that spin down the side of her head. I hugged Aubri, kissed her goodbye, told her I loved her. I hugged and kissed Lily, too, great big teardrops falling down on her tiny shoes.

My sister punched my arm.

“Quit it, you’re going to make me cry,” she said.

Saydee cried in her car seat while my mom, my sister and me hugged. We cried.

My stomach twisted itself into knots watching my sister drive the truck away. My mom and I lingered in the parking lot for a moment after she was gone. I grasped at the echoes of the space all of them had occupied just seconds before.

My mind swirled with the memories we had made together this past week, reminiscing and healing in each other’s presence.

The worries grow, and I think of those 17 people, those children who didn’t get to come home in Florida. Will I be able to see my nieces again? My sister? I blink back the stinging tears, using every bit of my strength to stop the flood of emotions. It doesn’t work.

I look past my mom and out the window. The waves in the clouds brought to mind this feeling that we were held here, in what felt like it could be God’s cradle.

Who rests here, I wonder, in the place between where the sky ends and everything else begins?

Would they be happy with us?

Could we have done more?

Andrew Atkins is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected].