The news is on.

I grew up watching the news. In my house The Today Show was on every morning, and local news stations were on every night. With the exception of the time my mom literally threw me into the bathroom because she realized Budd Dwyer was about to shoot himself on live television, my parents never censored the news. I remember watching the MOVE bombing, the famine in Ethiopia, the Challenger explosion and the Gulf War. If I had questions, I asked questions, and my parents answered with age-appropriate honesty.

I remember a news story about a child abuse case in New York, one of the first sensationalized news stories in my memory- I was nine years old at the time, the same age as my son. Six-year-old Lisa Steinberg died at the hands of her wealthy, drug-addicted parents. I remember being horrified to learn that teachers, neighbors and family friends all suspected that the child was being abused,  but nobody called police or child protection. Eventually, the child was found dead in a filthy, blood-stained New York apartment.

As the news of her death trickled through the neighborhood, mourners showed up, piling flowers, candles and stuffed animals at the front stoop of Lisa's home. I remember seeing the teddy bears and feeling something well up inside. And by "something" I mean an epic meltdown.

"Mom," I asked. "Why are they bringing her bears? She's not sick, right? She died, right?" I felt my voice rising, and I started pacing the living room. I remember standing on one side of the dining room table, my mom on the other side undoubtedly having a moment of regret on her news watching policies while I shrieked at her.

"WHY ARE THEY BRINGING HER BEARS NOW? WHY DIDN'T SOMEONE HELP HER?"  Oh my God, my poor mom. Her weird, sensitive daughter was hysterical, and asking questions that there are just no answers for.

I woke up this morning and put on Sunday Today, watching with my nine-year-old son as the story of two mass shootings, mere hours apart, unfolded. It was on because despite PJ's Autism diagnosis, and his delayed language skills, we watch the news in my house. When PJ has questions, we answer them with age-appropriate honesty. He may not understand the social nuance of what happened- gun control, mental health issues, racism and domestic terrorism. But sometimes during his school day, he practises what to do if someone has a gun. He's aware that bad things happen.

He watched quietly while he played with his trains and ate breakfast. Images of people running from the scene flashed across the TV.

"They are running. Is it...funny?" He often asks if something is funny, PJ-speak for trying to tease out the emotion of what he's seeing, which can be tremendously difficult for him.

"Well, this time it's sad, Bud. They were scared and trying to make sure their bodies were safe, " I tell him. Later on, he plopped down next to me on the couch.

"Twenty people died," he said. "But, that's okay! They will be better soon!" But they won't, and I tried as best as I could to explain to my nine-year-old that twenty people would not be better.

"When you die, Buddy, that's the end of your body. You can't get better." I was my mom over 30 years ago, trying to answer a question that has no answer.

I think about nine-year-old me and nine-year-old PJ and there are things that will always be the same. Terrible things happen, sometimes as often as the great things. I never thought to ask my mom if she resented having to explain the trials of the world to me, but as I drank my coffee this morning, I felt resentment. I resent that I have to continue to have these discussions about gun violence, even though I am unwilling to shield PJ from the news altogether. Clear laws about mandated reporters will help to make sure that teachers and others in positions of caregiving (police, social workers, nurses, etc) can not turn a blind eye to instances of abuse, ensuring that children like Lisa Steinberg are helped before there is a tragedy. The Challenger Disaster  has been studied, not only by scientists and engineers on the physical breakdown of the shuttle, but as an ethics case as well. My mom could tell nine-year-old me that while awful things happen, people learn from their mistakes. On a morning where I wake up to two mass shootings, with a string of similar morning news reports in the days and months before, I don't know if I can tell nine-year-old PJ the same.

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