Several years ago I was blessed to serve as a volunteer chaplain at Longmont United Hospital in Longmont, Colorado. My friend Ralph (Episcopal Priest extraordinaire) and I both lived within two blocks of the hospital so we were on call most of the time.
Most of the time we responded to everything from life and death issues to someone who was having problems sleeping that night and wanted to talk with someone. There was no way to know that was on the other end of the pager.
I remember one particular page like it was yesterday. It was late in the afternoon on a school day. I remember arriving at the hospital and experiencing a huge flurry of activity. I soon learned that we were facing a very critical situation. A school bus had crashed while delivering children in the area. The news was out that the bus had rolled and at least one child was dead.
The bus crash took place in Boulder canyon just west of the City of Boulder but the kids were being distributed to a four different hospitals in the area. Some were severely injured while others simply had cuts and bruises.
The Longmont hospital had already received 6 to 8 elementary aged children. My assignment was to greet families at the door to help them locate their children. I was armed with a list of the children who were at our hospital but we had no information about the other locations or the children who had been triaged to the various facilities.
By the time the first family arrived the place was being overrun by reporters. The 9News helicopter had landed on the lawn and there was noise and comotion everywhere.
I will never forget the first family that arrived. Mom was arriving from her home in Boulder and dad was close behind. They ran to the entrance with eyes that were searching for some sign of hope. Fear and the anxiety of the moment had rightly captured them fully. They were thinking the worst and hoping for the best.
I met them on the sidewalk. Our goal was to calm their spirits and to help them locate their child without letting them in the facility if their child was not there. They were a picture of panic.
Their child was not on my list. The only thing I could do was to identify the other hospitals and to send them back to their cars so they could continue their search. Neither of them was in shape to drive so a Longmont Police officer offered to take them to Boulder Memorial Hospital. I could only pray that their little boy would be there. We knew one child was dead. I prayed that it would not be their child while knowing that the child of some loving parent was going to receive some very bad news on that day.
Meanwhile, the next and the next and the next families arrived with the same panicked look in their eyes. There was no mistaking who the parents were. They were all thinking the same thing and wanting the same information. Parents need their children and children need their parents.
Last week, in Newtown, Connecticut, parents arrived at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Panic, pain, unbelievable grief accompanied each mother, father, grandparent, and friend.
Parents and children...God bless the wonderful joyful moments. Lord Jesus, walk through the days when the whole world seems to be empty and dark. "For the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light..." May it be so. May it be so.