Last night, Mr. Right Turn and I attended our youngest son’s elementary-school winter concert. These affairs used to be called Christmas concerts, but that is another story. (And for the record, all of American Jewry would be very happy to cut out the insipid “I have a little dreidel” from such programs, leaving only Christmas carols.  No offense will be taken — honest!)

The school gym was packed with the band, the strings and choir groups, parents, grandparents and siblings (some on knees and strollers). The principal began with a moment of silence for the victims of Newtown, Conn. And the thoughts began racing. What of the kindergartners and other little ones who may not have been exposed to the horrific violence — in other words, those whose parents made the wise decision, based on their age and vulnerability, to turn off the TV set and turn over the newspaper’s front page? Well, a brief reference to something unknown usually sails over the heads of the littlest ones, so those children probably will have their innocence extended a bit longer. 

A memorial for victims of the Newtown shooting. (Washington Post)

The thought of those Connecticut families with crushed souls and missing children was momentarily overwhelming, but the beginning of the proceedings blissfully pulled us back from the edge of tears. For once, the sound of beginning string players was a relief (almost).

But then I looked around at the hundreds of us, all cheek to jowl, at least half bearing cameras and/or picture-taking cell phones. Of course no weapons were there since we were in a “protected” no-gun zone. Hmmm. I thought, well, we’d have plenty of photos if the unimaginable occurred, but no one there to protect us. No police officer, none of the parents (even those serving in the armed services) would be prepared to do much at all other than dive for the floor and our children.

We depend on the covenant of decency, that those in our midst don’t do horrid things and those responsible for troubled people will keep them and the rest of us from harm’s way. That covenant, we know all too well, is tattered. 

So I am pleased the president is getting to work with a multifaceted approach in response to the Newtown massacre (although the fix is clearly in, since the president’s aides say he wants an assault-weapons ban and his vice president, who is in charge of the efforts, sponsored the 1994 weapons ban, which proved entirely useless).  I fear, however, as in the case of the Simpson-Bowles commission, that it won’t lead to much any time soon.

In the meantime, would it have been too much to have increased security at my child’s elementary school? My older child’s middle school and now high school have had a uniformed police officer who, from what I can see, generally sits in an office. I am delighted he or she is there (and the police car usually sits in the parking lot), and I wonder why this practice isn’t more widespread, especially at schools where the youngest children attend. The police presence, however slight, deters not only outside violence but also law-breaking by students, who might at least think twice about bringing whatever they aren’t supposed to bring to school.

The concert was a delight, and might I especially say, the advanced band shone, saxophones most of all.  We all embraced our kids afterward and streamed out to the cars, the heartache of those Connecticut families just too much to comprehend.