21 Empty Chairs
By Rosemary Lewallen
The TV images are too much to bear:
Nineteen children and two teachers murdered in Uvalde, Texas.
I watch a sobbing young father who lost his daughter,
I weep for him and his family.
The father is inconsolable.
The reporter puts his arm around him.
The father wanted to protect his child
and felt that he had failed her.
He said, “She brushed her teeth every day!”
This mundane statement hits me in my gut.
These innocent children did nothing wrong.
They did not deserve to die that day.
Each of these children had unfulfilled dreams.
Elliana wanted to be a teacher.
She looked forward to her quinceanera.
Her parents were planning her 11th birthday on June 4th.
Alexandria was honored that day for All-A Honor Roll.
Her mother posted, “She also received the good citizen award.”
Her parents had told her they loved her that morning.
They said they’d pick her up after school.
Ten-year-old Alithia wanted to be an artist.
She submitted a drawing to a recent contest.
Her budding talent was cut short.
What might she have created if allowed to live?
Some of the children had been talented athletes.
10-year-old Eliahana looked forward to playing softball
at the final game of the season scheduled the next day.
10-year-old Layla had won six races at the school’s Field Day.
Teacher, Irma Garcia, died trying to protect her students.
Married for 24 years, she had four children.
Days after her death, her husband died of a heart attack,
leaving their four children parentless.
Teacher, Eva Mireles, age 44, was another heroic victim.
She had worked for the school district for 17 years.
Her husband served as a policeman in the district.
Eva’s daughter said her mom was “the half that makes me whole.”
Jailah didn’t want to go to school that day.
She asked her father if she could stay home.
That was unusual for this fun-loving girl.
Her father said, “I think she knew something would happen.”
Both Jailah and her cousin, Jayce, were killed,
one of at least two sets of cousins murdered.
Their families are torn apart with grief,
trying to cope with this senseless tragedy.
Uvalde families were frustrated with law enforcement.
“Mistakes were made,” authorities admitted.
A resident said that slow police response was the norm.
Each minute cost precious lives.
Rows of crosses marked with the names of the dead
like a white picket fence in a horror film.
Flowers and stuffed animals adorn the site,
a futile attempt to comfort lost children and survivors.
Can we break Pandora’s curse and end this evil?
Why does any civilian need an automatic assault weapon?
Should an 18-year-old be able to easily purchase a weapon of war?
Will lawmakers ever pass common-sense gun reforms?
The only thing left in Pandora’s box was hope.
I cling to that glimmer of hope
to protect our vulnerable children,
the future of our nation.