School Shooting: A Letter To My Sons

School Shooting: A Letter To My Sons

I wrote this in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting in December 2012. At the time, my boys were 6 and 8 years old -similar ages to the children who lost their lives on that terrible day. I know that many parents will be feeling this way now, after the tragedy in Texas. Our hearts break for the lives lost, and for the families and loved ones whose lives are forever altered.

To my dearest boys,

I was going to start this letter by telling you about the things that happened today, but it will be easy enough for you to find out if you are so inclined. Just Google today’s date – December 14, 2012 – and “Connecticut”. I am afraid that if I try to describe the events for you here, I will drown under the weight of my own sadness, and I won’t be able to tell you the stuff that you really need to know.

When you were newborn babies, I held you in my arms and promised you that I would give you the best life I possibly could. I would provide for you, support you in whatever you wanted to do and help you reach your full potential, whatever that might be. I would keep you safe and warm, and I would do everything I could to protect you from the uglier side of life.

But sometimes the uglier side of life kind of forces itself on us. People do things that are so unspeakably terrible that the effects penetrate to the deepest parts of our souls. It reminds us that sometimes we cannot protect the ones we love – sometimes we just have to do the best we can and then go on faith.

Today I feel like the luckiest mom in the world. When I got home from work today, you both came running at me, and I wrapped my arms around you and held you as close as I could. You hugged me back, kissed me on my cheek and told me you loved me. Right now, there are some parents who will never feel the warmth of their children’s hugs again.

We all spent some time romping around on my bed, telling jokes and wrestling with each other. I scolded you when you started jumping on the bed, all the while feeling immensely grateful that you are here for me to scold.

We went out to dinner, the four of us. We went to our usual restaurant, sat in our usual booth and ate the food we usually eat. We were all together – an intact, whole family. I thought of the families who have new gaps at their dinner tables and in their hearts.

As I sit here now, I am thinking about how tomorrow, I will finally get around to putting up the Christmas tree. I will be doing it with you boys, but instead of bossing you around about how to decorate the tree like I usually do, I am going to let you do it however you want.

You see, I get to decorate the Christmas tree with you. I will get to give you the Christmas presents I have bought you, unlike some families who have gifts hidden in their closets that will never be opened.

Right now as I write this, you are both in bed. You are supposed to be asleep, but one of you is trying to play with Lego quietly, and the other has a colouring book and crayons under the blankets with a flashlight. In a little while, I will go into each of your rooms and tell you to go to sleep.

While I am there, I will hug you tightly and tell you I love you.

With all my love, with all my heart, with everything I have.

Your Mom

Originally posted on Running For Autism on 14 December, 2012. Posted to World Moms Network by the author.

Kirsten Doyle (Canada)

Kirsten Doyle was born in South Africa. After completing university, she drifted for a while and finally washed up in Canada in 2000. She is Mom to two boys who have reached the stage of eating everything in sight (but still remaining skinny). Kirsten was a computer programmer for a while before migrating into I.T. project management. Eventually she tossed in the corporate life entirely in order to be a self-employed writer and editor. She is now living her best life writing about mental health and addictions, and posting videos to two YouTube channels. When Kirsten is not wrestling with her kids or writing up a storm, she can be seen on Toronto's streets putting many miles onto her running shoes. Every year, she runs a half-marathon to benefit children with autism, inspired by her older son who lives life on the autism spectrum. Final piece of information: Kirsten is lucky enough to be married to the funniest guy in the world. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Be sure to check out her YouTube channels at My Gen X Life and Word Salad With Coffee!

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Parents: Get Ready, Get Safe with Save the Children

Parents: Get Ready, Get Safe with Save the Children

Save the Children Keansburg 1

Did you know that it was 6 months after Hurricane Katrina until the last child was reunited with her parents in Louisiana?  SIX months.  Did you also know that just after the fatal shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut a mother was sent to three different locations where she was told her child may be until she found out that she had lost her child in the shootings? And that there are more pet reunification programs set in place than for human children?

According to Kathy Spangler, Vice President in charge of US Programs at Save the Children, this is unacceptable.  She stated that many schools or child care facilities in the United States still do not have a reunification plan in place in the case of disaster.

Jennifer Burden of World Moms Blog and her 2-year old daughter sit down with Kathy in St. Anne's child care in Keansburg, NJ 10 months after Hurricane Sandy affected the area.

Jennifer Burden of World Moms Blog and her 2-year old daughter sit down with Kathy Spangler, VP of US Operations at Save the Children, at St. Anne’s Child Care Center in Keansburg, NJ, marking 10 months after Hurricane Sandy affected the area.


Yesterday, I had the opportunity to sit down with Kathy Spangler in Keansburg, just a few towns over from where I live in New Jersey, USA. The town of Keansburg was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy last October. The storm overall was responsible for over 50 billion USD worth of damage including 650,000 homes and hundreds of child care centers and schools. In town we viewed the finished post-storm repairs needed by a local day care, St. Ann’s, which were made possible by Save the Children.

Judy Abrahamsen, the Director of St. Ann’s Child Care Center explained that the playground had been covered with sludge from the flood waters, and the ceiling had a major leak.

When asked, she responded that the major obstacle in finding aid for the day care’s repairs, initially, was finding the time to pinpoint the grants and take the time to fill out the many forms while still running the business.  Save the Children came to the rescue. And Kathy Spangler explained that running a day care is a labor of love, and those in the business are not in it for the windfall money, but because they love working with children. These businesses often don’t have the reserves on hand when natural disaster occurs, yet we need safe spaces for children, especially in times of disaster.

Within 24 hours after Sandy hit, Save the Children had over 130 people on the ground. The journey back to NJ this week was momentous, as they just launched their annual National Report Card in Protecting Children in Disaster, and New Jersey was one of four states to take action and meet the minimum emergency planning standards for children in times of disaster for the first time.

“Save the Children’s disaster report card tracks progress on four critical standards: that states require all child care centers to have 1) an evacuation plan, 2) a family reunification plan, and 3) a plan for children with special needs, and 4) that states require all schools to have disaster plans that account for multiple types of hazards.” However, 28 US states and the District of Columbia fall short.

“Back to school week in New Jersey is a reminder that we must do more to protect the nation’s 68 million children who are separated from their parents on any given weekday.”

Also, on this date, Save the Children launched a new preparedness initiative called “Get Ready, Get Safe” to help families and communities protect children at times of disaster.

On their site parents in the United States can send an electronic letter urging their governor to take action, make a donation and/or sign up to receive action alerts to stay informed. Spangler also encourages parents to stay informed and ask their children’s schools about reunification plans. Whether you are reading this from Newark, NJ or Naples, Italy, we can all kick off child advocacy by asking the simple question: “What is the reunification plan for my child?”

See the full report and take action at

What do you say, parents? Will you find out if your child’s school has a plan set in place? 

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Founder, Jennifer Burden of New Jersey, USA.  Please look out for more on this trip by following Jennifer on twitter @JenniferBurden.  




Jennifer Burden

Jennifer Burden is the Founder and CEO of World Moms Network, an award winning website on global motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. World Moms Network writes from over 30 countries, has over 70 contributors and was listed by Forbes as one of the “Best 100 Websites for Women”, named a “must read” by The New York Times, and was recommended by The Times of India.

She was also invited to Uganda to view UNICEF’s family health programs with Shot@Life and was previously named a “Global Influencer Fellow” and “Social Media Fellow” by the UN Foundation. Jennifer was invited to the White House twice, including as a nominated "Changemaker" for the State of the World Women Summit. She also participated in the One Campaign’s first AYA Summit on the topic of women and girl empowerment and organized and spoke on an international panel at the World Bank in Washington, DC on the importance of a universal education for all girls. Her writing has been featured by Baby Center, Huffington Post,, the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life, and The Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists.” She is currently a candidate in Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs in the Executive Masters of Public Affairs program, where she hopes to further her study of global policies affecting women and girls.

Jennifer can be found on Twitter @JenniferBurden.

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