After the horrible tragedy, which took place in Sydney’s suburb, Greenacre, where 52-year-old, Maha Al-Shennag ploughed into a classroom – just writing this is almost unfathomable – we mourn as teachers, Australians and sympathetic human beings.
It opens my eyes to one really important fact: life is finite.
You hear these quotes about the meaning and purpose of life and it kinda’ becomes a drone. “You only get one, make the most of it”, or “Life is too short to worry about what doesn’t make you smile”. Perhaps some all-conquering inspirational and cringe-worthy words are floating within your mind this very moment but the reality is, sometimes life just hurts.
For two young Sydney western suburb families, the hurt yields stronger than ever. They are probably wondering this morning whether life is really worth much at all anymore. One minute they are kissing their little angel goodbye; watching a glowing halo protect their bundle as their eyes follow the little one’s path into the exquisite world of learning, the next they are frantically panicking asking 'what have I done to deserve such a horrendous mishap?'.
Details of this freak occurrence will come to light in time but before we stop to take a breath I want to bring light to one simple point; children are the most precious resource we have. They are the sun on a cloudy day, lighting the dullest of situations, their honesty and spunk taste like a fresh mint to a bitter mood. Their smile, unknowingly contagious, creates a tidal wave of joy. The funny insight into absolutely anything and everything is breathtaking and the way their minds create something from nothing is something to truly embrace. Despite most adults’ idealistic view on being successful as a means of discovering happiness, our youth are happy just being. What would it be to live in that euphoria without even knowing you’re riding the waves of life like a pro? Yet this is the day to day demand of Australian kids. It's glorious. Then the unthinkable happens.
So many questions are still unanswered: What was going on in that car? Was there influence or impairment on the driver’s behalf? How did the car even get into that part of the school- it was the staff carpark, beyond a large automated security gate? What about the classroom? Were they reading in pairs when their walls and worlds were smashed? Did their smiles shine right until the end?
Is the family of each little boy able to get up today and seek the answers they wish to find, without buckling with every movement?
I can’t help but put myself in this situation, as a teacher. I put my heart and soul into each day with the gems that reside within my classroom’s walls. Yes, they often annoy, don’t listen and even make mistakes incomprehensible to others, including me but; they’re present. And will be again tomorrow. This would be simply unbearable, to not show presence, ever again. To scan the room and see two empty desk spaces, having to remove name cards, labels and stationary because these students now cease to exist. At no fault of their own, teachers take the blame for anything and everything that happens at school, and so they should. They’re the leader, the mentor, role model and protector. Their students will sponge off them in every way possible. But what now? Sure, when kids bully each other, teacher needs to mediate, then promote positive relationships. When a tantrum is thrown, the teacher picks up the pieces and forgets that grudges and judgments exist. Seemingly problematic, these are minute in comparison. But this just cannot be registered. How to hold yourself together after this; I can only shake my head in bewilderment. This wasn’t part of the contract the teacher signed when propelling themselves into the world of classroom utopia. Nowhere it said, ‘in case of…’ or ‘in the event of…’.
It is truly heart-breaking. For all involved. When your head hit the safety of your pillow last night, the worry of failure or that itch from workplace politics that needed to be scratched which consumed your last waking thoughts, quite simply meant nothing. If sleep was encountered at all in Greenacre last night, the sudden and insular awakening from the heftiest of night terrors would have brought it all screeching back to an abrupt and reality-bending end. Then, when the sunrises, whilst our demons are whisked away for another day, tucked into closets or under our beds, the nightmare continues and the plot of an unsavoury event thickens. It will take time for this to truly sink in and only then can this community start to grieve properly.
So while we sit and enjoy the smallest of life’s pleasures today, please spare a thought for those without that choice.
Kids are precious and represent all that is good in this world; they are our future and the empowerment of what true happiness is. Let these little angels watch from above with pride as we pick up the pieces of this mess. But we must do so with unity, forgiveness and perpetual care. Although this has happened in Sydney, across this great country of ours, we hold our hearts heavy.
Take nothing for granted.