“I hope the fireflies aren’t celebrating. They shouldn’t be happy.”
This is what my 11-year-old daughter said when, after many long hours of waiting, I had told her and her 9-year-old sister that their uncle, John McNamara, was among the five victims killed in the shooting that took place at the office of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, on June 28, 2018.
My husband, one of John’s younger brothers, had been keeping vigil with their mother since the afternoon, when the media alerts had begun. When he called around 9:00 p.m. to say that John’s wife had let him know that she had received official notification that John had not survived, our daughters overheard me talking, and there was nothing to do but tell them the truth. The girls did not want to go to bed until their father returned, needing to see for themselves that he was safe. We went into the backyard and sat in the darkness.
It was a warm summer night, and fireflies had settled into the tall trees in our backyard, flickering like Christmas lights. Although we’ve lived in this house their entire lives, both girls have always been in bed before this display would begin, so that night was the first time they had seen it. Instead of finding joy or comfort in the sight, my daughters felt confusion and resentment that the world could still seem so calm and lovely after what had happened.
Summer has gone and so have the fireflies. I hope that when they return, my daughters can enjoy the way they dance high in the branches.
But this wasn’t the introduction they should have had.