This series, which features images of children waiting for the bus in their small Connecticut town, was motivated by the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. The shooting took place an hour away from my home.
My daughter was the same age as the victims at the time of the shooting. Like much of the world, I was devastated. Eventually, however, I became disillusioned by our society’s inability to cut through the politics and reach the picture of human frailty embodied by the adults and children that were killed that morning.
A few months later, after watching children wait for the morning bus in our small community, I realized that I felt a strong connection between their innocence and the vulnerability of the Sandy Hook victims. My wife and I felt powerless as parents and citizens. As my feelings of helplessness settled in for the long haul, my camera drifted to something fatalistic: the moment when we, as parents, part ways from our children. The current reality of mass shootings in the US made me realize how fragile the moment is when we step out the door to go to school. We take for granted the idea that we will see each other later.
Like watching a slow-motion home movie, my daughter and I go our separate ways each morning: I see her step aboard the bus with her purple, sparkly backpack, her hair clips and boots. She goes to school and I go to work. We do this almost mindlessly. In order to leave her, I have to somehow believe, in spite of what I read in the morning paper, that things are going to be fine. Like so many other parents, I am able to do this: I can manage to lose myself in my work during the day and I almost forget about her. Almost.
From a parent’s perspective, there is a whole lifetime of childhood experience that happens between 9 am and 3 pm. My child leads a life that begins at the end of our driveway. That spot where the school bus stops is a membrane between home and the rest of the world. Children and teenagers stand there, vulnerable and brave—trusting that they are safe.