praying in the shadows

Last week my 11th grade English students finished reading The Crucible by Arthur Miller, and Friday we began watching the movie to analyze various differences in a play for a live audience vs a movie version.  None of that is either here nor there.

Today {Monday} after the tragic events of the weekend, my students are watching the conclusion of the movie and finishing their assignment.

As I graded papers, the movie boomed through my classroom.

I have probably read this play a thousand times and watched the movie almost as many times.  But today I paused and watched as the actors portrayed the mass hysteria of the people of Salem.

I’m not sure if you are familiar with the movie or the play, but there is a scene where the hangings of the “Salem witches” reaches a fervor of excitement.  People cheer and laugh and root on the hangings of the so-called-witches. The young girls of the village are convinced they are instruments of God cleansing their town of evil and the Devil, when in reality they are carrying out beefs their parents have or vengeance they have on innocent people.


I’ve been struggling, like the rest of the country, with how to…what? deal with this?  That doesn’t seem right.  Sort it out? Make sense of it in my mind?

See, I still don’t know what I am supposed to do with it.

But this is what I know: The public reaction to the entire thing sickens me almost as much as the killing of innocent children and school staff members did.

Friday afternoon, after my last class left, I got on the internet and saw the news.  I didn’t read any of it knowing that my desk at work was not a good place for me to read something so triggering to my anxiety, instead I did the super dumb thing…but the habit…and checked facebook before signing off for the week.

I wish I had stayed off facebook all weekend.

There were people calling for bullets to be put in the heads of all people with mental illnesses.

There was a massive uproar to get rid of all the guns.  And consequently, there was an abundance of MOAR GUNS! ARM THE TEACHERS!

There were those praising the teachers, and people calling those of us who shared stories illustrating our bravery and heroism selfish and insensitive.

There were those making personal connections because they too had children that age. And they, like myself, let the tragedy seep into their imaginations and play out the “what if’s…”

There were those immediately posting pictures of candles and holding vigils.  There are those who are taking a blogging day of silence today to honor those who died.

There were links to posts people passionately hammered out in the moments after the news and impassioned debates under those links with personal attacks and name-calling and finger-pointing.

Accusations started flying about the intents of people and why they would post things.  Passions ran at an all time high on the interwebs.

Friends…family…started turning on each other.

The cyber yelling that I could hear in my head that I couldn’t sort out or understand was echoed in the movie today.  The people of Salem calling for public hangings and turning on one another over politics and beliefs all while tragedy took place around them.

I still don’t know what to say.

Cortney respected my need to not watch the news, but last night {Sunday} after the lights were turned out, I tossed and turned because the intrusive, anxious thoughts began pouring in.

I imagined it happening to my children.

I put myself into the shoes of the parents…having presents under their trees for children who will never receive them. I can’t…I can’t even go on.

I had nightmares of horrible people doing horrible things in the world.

I woke up to people yelling at each other on the TV, the radio, and the internet over beliefs.

I can’t make the noise in my head go away.

This weekend we took the boys to visit Santa. We celebrated Cort’s graduation with family.  We watched Eddie sing in the church Christmas program.

It is the holiday season.  It’s always been my favorite season because it brings out the best in humanity.

Except when it doesn’t.

So on the outside we celebrated.  But on the inside…at least on my insides, I started to lose faith.

As I sat in church watching my little boy sing, “Wake up, Shepherds!” tears formed in my eyes.

What does my heart feel?

Overwhelming grief for those not watching their little ones sing.

Confusion that my profession has become a “dangerous” one.

Anger…oh the so many things. The shooter.  The system that failed him, his mother, the students, the teachers…us as a country.

I am mad at guns. There, I said it.  My beliefs about gun control haven’t changed other than right now I would probably be glad if I never saw one again. I am sure someday I will be more rational about it.  But right now? I hate them.

I’m angry at those who think that people with mental illnesses should kill themselves.  I have a mental illness.

I am pissed off that people are claiming that if we had more God in our schools, this wouldn’t have happened.

I harbor a deep rage for people who think in order to honor someone, we can’t say our personal opinions, while at the same time hating some of those personal opinions.

I hate the call for silence, but I can’t function through all the noise anymore.

I keep thinking…”if it were me. If that was my class. If we were all sent to heaven…”  But I can’t get past that. I can’t let that scenario play itself out because then I have to imagine Cort raising our boys alone.  Sleeping in our bed alone.  Charlie never knowing me.  Eddie only having vague memories.

Damn it.  See? I can’t do it.

But I wouldn’t want silence.

But this noise that is happening? Is not what I would want either.

I have thoughts on all the political views this tragedy has stirred up…but I just…I can’t. When I voice them, I get roared down and I just don’t have the stones right now to take it.


Saturday night Eddie couldn’t sleep because he was afraid of the shadows.  I was too…different shadows though.  So when he asked me if I would lay by him, I got under the covers and held him close to me. I traced his face with my fingers and pushed my nose into his hair.

I asked him if he wanted to say a prayer, and he said yes.

So we thanked God for our lives and for our family. We asked him to bless “mommy, daddy, Eddie, and Charlie.”  We asked forgiveness for “our sins yike being mean.”

And we asked him to keep us safe from the shadows.

In this season of hope and charity…I am losing my faith in humanity.

There is one thing I know for sure…destruction does not heal destruction; Hate does heal hatred.

As Mary Warren says in The Crucible “We must all love each other now.”

About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.


  1. You have said everything that has been running through my heart and head the last few days. The intrusive thoughts. The worry. The anxiety. The fear. I know. <3

  2. I chose to ignore all the stuff about more guns/ mentally ill people should be shot/ more God in schools/ the government sucks.

    I instead chose to focus on thinking about all 26 who lost their lives.

    I choose to believe in humanity. I choose to believe that there are good in people. I have to. It’s the only way I know I can go on living in this world, putting my boys out there.

  3. I love how you ended this post. I was away at a funeral most of the weekend. It was wonderful to be surrounded by people who were loving and caring.

  4. I am right there with you. My anxiety is seeping through everything and I am fighting it back. I am heartbroken and angry. I have no idea what to do with all these emotions and thoughts. It is hard. Really hard. The victims and families. Love and light to them.

  5. It’s impossible to know the best way to deal with it all. There is only OUR way – which works for us individually and as families. (Hugs)

  6. I havent’ read anything about the victims because my heart can’t handle it….so I’ve decided to just try my best to be a light for anyone who needs it….and pray pray pray without ceasing…and rejoice in my blessings..and pray for those families who don’t have them. Because this was evil and I don’t want to dwell in evil. You’re righ t– hate breeds hate. so I’m fighting it with love.

  7. I am not sure what to think or do either. My heart hurts so bad. I am afraid to have the girls out of my sight, even the next room if I can’t hear them. Letting them go to school is so painful. I am angry at so many in real life and on social media. I don’t have any answers. I don’t pretend to have any answers.

    You said it beautifully.

  8. I agree completely which is why my post on the subject languishes in my drafts. The noise is just too loud.

  9. I feel what you are saying. But I also feel that it is times like this that we have to seek out the good and spread it. I have been making an effort the last couple of days to notice all of the good places, people, and experiences. I’m not talking about ignoring the horribleness, but allowing the good to seep in around the edges. What else can we do but recognize and appreciate all of the times when good wins?

  10. I agree that it’s horribly disheartening to see people devolve into a spiral of hate, judgment, ignorance and accusation at a time when we should be hugging and encouraging each other. This is something that has been weighing heavily on my mind and heart (as if there wasn’t enough weighing on it right now).

    It is easy to lose faith in humanity, yes. It is hard when there is so much darkness, so much hate. But, like some of the other ladies have said, we can put light into the world. We can fight with love. We can perpetrate acts of kindness. We can give out hugs and kisses and kind words and smiles. We can do that.

    Here’s to bolstering each other and bringing more light and love into the world.

  11. I read something yesterday that said in times like these, when so many feel a natural reaction to anger, and when it seems like our society is so broken, it’s good to do something kind for someone. To try to open yourself to be even softer and kinder than you were a week ago. Because only softness and kindness can heal everyone’s broken hearts. So today, I’m going to buy a bed for a child who doesn’t have one ( Then I’m going to go home and help Ryan make some ornaments for his daycare teachers (and I’m going to bake them some treats), to thank them for being amazing. Because… I don’t know, those are things I can do that are good. And we need as much “good” as we can get right now.

  12. This is such an incredible post. You’ve managed to write through something that so many of us have only been able to feel.

    You are right, of course. A tragedy like this should never make our society more disjointed. Instead, we should draw together to keep each other safe and loved and protected. (That’s my prayer with my two year old every night when he gets scared of the noises. “Remind us that we are safe and loved and protected”.) We need each other.

  13. I love your line about hating the silence and hating the noise. That’s how I feel right now. I don’t know how to get to a place that is okay. Anxiety, anger, fear and sadness consume me as I try to move forward and it isn’t my tragedy to feel any of those. I feel selfish feeling anything at all. Like I have no right and yet, I can’t help it. Great post.

  14. Such a thoughtful post. So much to think about, so much commentary to be made, so many tears, so much frustration. It’s a crazy time we live in when are children are greeted by metal doors, security key pads, guards with guns, etc.