These portraits of children waiting for the morning bus in a small semi-rural Connecticut town were motivated by the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown in December, 2012, which took place about an hour away from our home. My own daughter, a first grader at the time, was the same age as the victims when the shooting occurred. Devastated—like much of the world—initially by the shooting, I eventually became disillusioned by our society’s inability to cut through the politics and see the clear picture of the human frailty of the victims, both children and adults. A few months later, seeing children waiting for the morning bus in our small community, I connected their innocence with the vulnerability and powerlessness I felt for the victims, the parents of the victims, my own daughters and indeed for my wife and myself as parents and citizens. As my feelings of helplessness settled in for the long haul, my camera drifted to something more fatalistic: the moment when we part. Our current reality of recurring mass shootings has brought into stark relief that moment of “bye-bye” when we step out to go to school or to the movies assuming 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, hairclips and boots. She goes to school, and I go to work and we do it almost mindlessly. For me to be able to part ways with 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, even lose myself in my work during the day, and 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 that one does not see. A lifetime that begins at the end of the driveway. That spot where the school bus stops is a membrane between home and the rest of the world. Children and teenagers stand out there vulnerable, brave, trusting that they are safe. Trusting that we cherish life itself.