Warning: This piece deals with extreme trauma and may be triggering to some.

As their teacher spoke, the children sat surrounded by low humming energy—the ever-present electricity given off by their youth—and many sat brimming with anticipation for the final bell that would send them home. The day had stretched on and on and the sun poured through the classroom windows, speaking truths of another hot summer to come. 

Some of the kids listened to the teacher with interest. Others counted the floor tiles, or picked at the corners of their school books, or daydreamed idly of the small victories the summer might bring. And though the summer was close at hand, time moved for them languidly; passing by with the carefree ease of a willow tree swaying in the warm Texas breeze. 

With a smile, the teacher overlooked the daydreamers and the idlers, the thumb twiddlers and tile counters. For the end of class was near and summer was right behind. And the teacher had her own babies at home to mind, though she had no problem playing mother to all the dreaming children. Yet she always held a hint of melancholy when she was away from home; the faces of her own children were never far from her mind. So she too looked ahead, urging the clock to pick up its pace. 

Unfortunately, time cannot speed up or slow down on command. Nor does it stop. No, time cannot stop, but the life experiencing it can. 

The door to the classroom burst open with sudden fury. Startled, all of the little eyes flashed toward the intrusion. It was the loud smash that paused their hearts. 

Some children looked to the teacher—the adult, the protector—but she stood momentarily frozen with her mouth agape. Then, with a wild rush, she the teacher, the mother, the savior, the protector of innocence, lunged forward and hurled herself at the intruder. 

Save the babies. 

Save the babies. 

Save the–

Thunder. 

Deafening thunder. 

And then the mother fell to the ground, and a tear rolled down her cheek and broke free, landing in a crimson pool with a silent ripple. The faces of her babies, her home, flashed in her mind’s eye. But this time there was no melancholy. Only the joy of having known them and the regret that they would never know her. 

Thunder. 

Deafening thunder. 

And then some of the children fell. Some of the babies fell. Their small victories would never be realized. Their big big plans would never come to fruition. Their big big dreams would never become more than that. 

Thunder. 

Deafening thunder. 

And there was blood. So much blood. And some of the children cowered. The babies cowered. Some resorted to sucking their thumbs; a soothing habit of early childhood that no longer soothed. Some hid under desks. Others cried for their mothers. All looked for an adult. 

An adult. One responsible for making sense of the world when it didn’t make sense. But there was only one adult in the classroom, and he was the one who made time stop. 

Then the bell rang. 

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