I stood amongst the flickering candles as the frigid cold bit at my face and fingers. I didn’t want to be here, no one wanted to be here. The wax from the candle I held dripped down onto my skin. The it heat produced was bittersweet. It stung, but the little warmth I could feel was welcomed. As I looked to the front of the crowd the reality of it all sunk in. Thinking I was alone in this was foolish and selfish. With me stood a sea of others who had had the light of their world stolen from them. I was not the only parent who had their child carried off. Regardless, the emptiness I felt created the illusion of being the minority.
My eyes caught sight of a woman with a microphone as she walked to the front of the group. With her gloved hand she adjusted the hood of her parka in a futile attempt to shield herself from the arctic wind. Clearing her throat, she spoke.
“Three days ago, a great tragedy took place at our school,” From my place I could see her eyes shimmering; the light of a thousand candles reflecting on them. I bit my tongue, trying to keep myself from speaking my mind. We all knew why we were here and we all knew what happened; no one needed a reminder.
“On December nineteenth…” My hands trembled, causing my flame to dance and more wax to be cast down onto my skin. Rage and Sorrow clawed at my mind and soul. We weren’t ignorant; we all knew the day, and some of us had the time down to the second etched into our hearts. “... fifty children were murdered…”
My body shook and my face contorted. The air rushed out of my nose so fast that my mustache tickled my upper lip. All of this was unnecessary. None of this needed to happen. All of this was madness, but all of us were now lost in the chaos.
“Their dreams were stolen from them…” She could not have said anything more obvious. Every day, when Delilah came home from school, she would look at me with her mother’s dark brown eyes as she grinned ear to ear. She would babble about her day as her eyes gleamed. They say that the eyes are the windows to the soul, and if this is true: her spirit blazed brighter than any fire man could make, only burning stronger as the hopes of the future were fed to it. Nothing could extinguish her passion.
I remember that when Delilah was smaller, and I was younger, I thought that I could protect her from the world. She believed that I could move mountains, and she made me believe this to be true. She thought that I could do anything. Now, I can do nothing. I knew that I could have never stopped the gunman from coming into the school, but I could have spared Delilah. In the morning she came to me, complaining of a sore throat and runny nose; asking to stay home from school. After taking her temperature and figuring that it was just a cold, I sent off her off. Now I wished that I had listened to her. I had promised her mother before she passed that I would not let anything happen to her, and now, that promise was shattered. The shards cut me me deeper than any knife ever could.
I do not remember the rest of the woman’s speech; I was too lost in thought. When she finished, she bowed her head and walked away to rejoin the rest of us. I had blocked her out, but I did not regret doing so. Everything she said was a mere collection of what all of us felt, thought, and knew.
As I stood, I heard someone singing, their quiet song drifting into my ears. Another voice joined in the melancholy tone. One by one, we all joined in. I myself did not know the meaning of the words, but it expressed what we were all feeling.
“Shalom, chaverim, Shalom, chaverim, Shalom, Shalom; L'hitra'ot, L'hitra'ot, Shalom, Shalom,” as our song rang out I felt a tear running down my cheek. It wasn’t until they sung it again, but in English, did I know the song’s meaning
“Shalom, my friends, Shalom, my friends, Shalom, Shalom; Till we meet again, Till we meet again, Shalom, Shalom.”
As the reverberations of our melody ceased, we began to go our separate ways. One by one, the light dimmed as individuals left our cluster. It didn’t take long til I was the only one left. For several moments, I stood there, wax rolling down my candle’s length. When the time came that I could no longer stand the biting whirlwinds, I extinguished my flame and turned to venture into the darkness of night.