I remember sitting in the back of the cold room. It was always cold in that church building. Children's chatter filled the air as I sat there, glancing at each Primary teacher to make sure they didn't need my help.
This was my church calling when I was home summer of 2012. Primary helper. I aided the children's Sunday School teachers if their kids were ever rowdy or if they just needed an extra pair of hands. And so I sat in the back, looking out for the panic in teachers' eyes and for children wiggling about. That was my cue to assist them.
At the front, the Primary president was giving an object lesson. I don't remember what it was, but she asked for a couple volunteers. A sea of small, eager hands waved frantically, each one hoping they would be picked. A small, blonde six-year-old's hand rocketed into the air ahead of everyone else's and she was chosen. As she was walking out of her row, I thought to myself, she must be a Parker, that blonde hair and high voice. I was in Nursery just the Sunday before helping her youngest sister slide down the slide and in Sunbeams the week before that taking another sister and her classmates to get a drink. The way each of them chirped filled my ears and quickly became a part of each of my summery Sundays. Blonde, beautiful and beaming, all three Parker children.
As she was heading towards the front, another child bumped into her. She turned and said something sassy.
Her mother, who was also a Primary teacher and who I knew only as Sister Parker, chuckled to herself. Brother Parker walked in then to drop off something with her and she relayed the story of their sassy daughter. They laughed.
It was that moment that I had a sudden urge to be married with children and to be able to sit back with my husband and watch our kids learn and grow to be people like us.
December 14th, I was in the Salt Lake Airport when the tragedy at Newtown hit the media. I landed in Hong Kong when plastered all over the televisions were videos of Newtown, the place where I spent some of my weekends, where some of my very good friends lived, where I went to church every week for many years. Anchors commented in Cantonese on the other side of the world. Pictures of Emilie and her classmates were surrounded by Chinese in newspapers. Brother Parker was on TV. And I cried in the little Hong Kong apartment, filled with sorrow, filled with grief for the young lives that ended too soon, too brutally.
I am home for the first time in almost a year, and six months after the tragedy, I am in Newtown, sitting in the back of the cold room, remembering.
This really isn't a post, but after, in a sort of way, paying homage to the place I met the Parkers, this is my way of saying, rest in peace, Emilie, and God comfort the Parker family and the families of the children.
December 14, 2013, one year after the tragedy: