A granite angel watches over Emma Crozier's grave. Polished gray stones, engraved with words like Love and Laugh and Remembrance, decorate the plots where best friends Hannah Scott and Megan Turner lie.
And, of course, there are the pinwheels, spinning gaily with color, with life, beside markers that all end with a single date: March 13, 1996.
Four years and two months to the day have passed since these three little girls, along with 13 of their kindergarten classmates and teacher, were massacred in a school gymnasium in Dunblane, Scotland, by an embittered, unemployed loner armed with two pistols and 743 rounds of ammunition.
So now their mothers have traveled across the Atlantic to applaud those who will gather on the Mall tomorrow and demand action against gun violence in the United States. With Alison Crozier and Kareen Turner beside her, Karen Scott will stand on the stage of the Million Mom March and look out on tens of thousands of unknown faces.
She is not entirely sure of the encouragement she will offer, although given her brogue, lyrical but foreign nonetheless, her words likely will be simple and direct. "We're here to support the mothers of America," she says.
Few at the march will have come farther, emotionally as well as geographically, than these women from Scotland--"the Dunblane mothers," as march organizers refer to them. They like that label far better than the one they shouldered for so long back home. "The bereaved parents," they and the other families were called. BPs for short.
All three can talk about what happened in the aftermath of their tragedy. How, in just a few months, a petition drive throughout their nation collected 705,000 signatures urging that handguns, already tightly restricted, be outlawed entirely. The Snowdrop campaign was named for the tiny, fragile flower that is the only bloom in season in Scotland during March.
It faced opposition, certainly, with some members of Parliament arguing in part that a ban would prevent Britons from participating in shooting competitions. But less than 18 months later, the government prohibited the possession of all handguns in Britain. The law is one of the strictest gun-control measures in the world.
Still, as Turner says, their visit this weekend "is not about what we did." She and her compatriots hold no illusions that a ban could occur in this country--even though the TV news back home always seems to relate yet another gruesome U.S. shooting.
With each report, and especially the ones when children are the victims, Crozier aches for the parents. "This is the first day when they start going through hell," she thinks to herself.
On one level, none of the three can understand Americans' tolerance.
"That's what people say, 'Why don't they do something about that? Why do they let these things happen?' " Scott says. On another level, though, she gets it. "Guns aren't part of our culture. They are here."
The bucolic place where she lives is a town of about 10,000 people an hour northeast of Glasgow. On at least some level, it seems, everyone knows everyone.
Before March 13, 1996, the most Scott or Turner feared for their children's first year of class was that the double-decker bus that took them every morning to Dunblane Primary School would crash. The Croziers live close enough that Alison walked Emma. "You could just never have worried about sending them to school," she says, the other mothers nodding in agreement.
All packed photographs of their daughters for their trip to Washington, and as they pull them out, descriptions and happy memories follow easily. Emma was a sunny but shy little girl who loved giggling and drawing and felt like she was growing up by going to kindergarten. Megan was the bouncy one, a "live wire" who was always upside-down in somersaults or handstands. And Hannah, neat, orderly, a deep thinker who enjoyed losing herself in make-believe.
Megan and Hannah were born only 10 days apart, but who would have ever expected them to be so inseparable? They were, their mothers laugh, "like chalk and cheese"--the Scottish equivalent of oil and vinegar.
Each was but 5 years old that Wednesday morning when Thomas Hamilton, 43, walked into their school. The former Scout leader bore grudges in abundance, and he felt most slighted by townspeople he thought had hampered his efforts to run local boys clubs.
In the gymnasium he found 29 pupils. In mere minutes, with two Browning semiautomatic pistols for which he held legal licenses, he fired 105 rounds. Only one child was not hit. Ultimately, 12 lived. Hamilton committed suicide.
The mothers remember the call, the neighbor, the co-worker--who told them something had happened at Dunblane Primary. They remember driving as helicopters whirred overhead and ambulances raced past them on the motorway--never comprehending that the sirens could be for their children. They remember sitting quietly, obediently, in a staff room at the school while police tried for hours to identify the dead--ultimately, 11 girls and five boys.
The next many months, though, are a nightmarish blur or lost forever from memory. Each woman still has boxes and drawers filled with letters of sympathy sent from around the world. Many arrived with addresses no more specific than "to Emma's Mom and Dad" or "to the Scott family in Dunblane."
In different ways they spoke publicly during the first year, allowing their anguish to help advance the anti-handgun campaign.
Turner was the mother bold enough to interrupt Prime Minister John Major during a meeting. "Excuse me, Mr. Major, we're here to speak to you," she told him. "You've got to make a commitment. Are you behind us? Can you stand up and be counted?"
Scott participated in a television documentary on the Dunblane children, while Crozier supported her husband as he became an outspoken activist for the cause, even serving as president of the British chapter of a European gun-control organization.
When the ban became reality, she termed their success "cold comfort," adding, "but at least it's just some way to ensuring it doesn't happen again."
Since then, all have moved on with day-to-day living. With other little ones to care for, they had no choice. "Four years is an awful long time," Turner explains. "The first year, you're numb. The second year, you're busy. The third year, it's sinking in, and the fourth year you feel like you're used to it, and then you say, 'No! I don't want to be used to this!' "
These days, at the primary school, flowers grow where blood once flowed. Officials tore down the gymnasium and planted a garden, with benches for sitting and reflection. The mothers see children running and playing there on sunny days.
And that, they agree, is as it should be.