These were difficult days to be the mother of a Jewish female student at Wesleyan. Nothing, of course, to compare to the utter heartbreak suffered by the family of the young woman who was murdered on Wednesday afternoon as she worked in the campus bookstore. Nothing can compare with losing a daughter, a sister, a friend in such a brutal way.
But that’s what was so terrifying. With one daughter a freshman there now, another daughter a recent graduate, it didn’t take much for me to make the horrifying substitution in my mind. Anxious mothers often say, “It could have been my child.” This time that wasn’t a cliché.
As an active alum myself, Wesleyan’s geography is comfortingly familiar. I know the bookstore where the murder occurred. I know the Bayit, the Jewish center that was evacuated after it was discovered that the alleged killer had threatened to target Jews. My youngest daughter is supposed to room there next year. I know the nearby synagogue in Middletown, where I once worked and where my daughter teaches Hebrew school, which was ordered shut after the attack. Over the years, the landscape of the campus has become like a hometown for me. How dare it be stained with blood?
The irony is that my family is scattered all over the world right now, but the one member most vulnerable was in a small, sleepy Connecticut town.
I come away from this experience with a renewed belief that this nation must do more to curtail the abuse of guns. That an obviously disturbed man should be able to freely own and operate a killing machine is outrageous and ought to be unacceptable. I have no idea when our elected leaders will grow the spine to do the right thing, but the public has to demand much more of them.
My second observation is a rueful one. I’m not prone to wearing the mantle of victim. But I have to reluctantly admit that, as much progress as we’ve made in this society, it is still dangerous to be a woman and a Jew, and especially to be both. We don’t know if the alleged killer really meant to murder Jewish students at my beloved alma mater. All he had to do was write the words and gun down a promising young woman who happened to be Jewish. That was enough to strike terror in this mother’s heart.