Tomorrow will mark one month since the fatal shooting of Dale Regan, Head of Episcopal School in Jacksonville. As a parent of an Episcopal sophomore, I’m profoundly grateful for the sensitive and effective way that Episcopal (board members, administrators and faculty) have guided its students through this tragedy. It has been a truly remarkable experience, one that left an indelible impression.
On Tuesday (March 6, 2012) in the early afternoon, our beloved Dale Reagan was taken from us in an act of extreme violence. Let there be no doubt that this was an evil act. This was a moment of darkness, which we will never forget. It has changed us all. —The Very Reverend Kate Moorehead
A moment of darkness. I felt the full weight of these words as they pressed down on the crowd at the memorial service. The usually tranquil and sheltered campus was heavy with grief and invaded by police cars and news reporters. I am no stranger to moments of darkness. My daughter died suddenly and my life changed in an instant. I moved in darkness, a sojourner in grief. And although, I didn’t know Dale Regan personally. My world will somehow be different without her. My son’s world will be different without her.
When my daughter died, my world stopped. I remember feeling that it would have been fitting for the sun to not show up in the morning, for the birds to stop singing, the children to stop playing, the grass to stop growing. If the world could just stop and share this inertia with me, I thought I’d be comforted. But, the world did not oblige. Every day the sun rose, the birds sang, the children played and the grass grew.
Then I thought perhaps a great dark cloud could just park itself right over my house. A sign to the world that time had stopped. I was taking a break from the action. But, I still had appointments to keep, a family to feed, dishes to wash. A life to live.
Time moves persistently forward. And so in the days after the tragedy at Episcopal classes were cancelled, but the campus was open. Students and parents came by to lay flowers by the school sign. I learned that Dale loved river rocks. Students painted more than 3,000 rocks and set them aside for her memorial service. Dale told students about rock cairns, little piles of rocks left by hikers to mark a path. She gave a river rock to anyone wrestling with a decision and told them to hold on to it until they had found their way. Students left rocks cairns around campus in her memory.
Coming together and having a community to grieve with was enormously comforting. Time marching on was not a personal affront, but path toward healing and unity. The sun rose, the birds sang, the children played, the grass grew. The world remained the same. My son and I are changed forever.