I live in a “That Will Never Happen Here” town. Once they are of age, my sons will attend a tiny “That Will Never Happen Here” school, across from a “That Will Never Happen Here” store, down the street from two “That Will Never Happen Here” churches. I hear others speak these assurances, and I repeat them quietly to myself in the still hours of the night while I lay awake thinking, wishing, praying, that my children could be raised in a safer time.

Every time I turn on the TV and see a new headline about a horrific attack on unsuspecting innocents, I feel my heart crack a little bit more. But this latest one–this one broke me. It stole any lingering sense of security that I felt. It made me realize that regardless of where we live, regardless of how rural we are and whether there are more cattle per square mile than people, That Can Happen Here.

Because a small town in rural Texas that went to sleep last Saturday night as a “That Will Never Happen Here” town, turned into an “It Happened” town at 11:20 am Sunday morning.

With the whole world seemingly spiraling out of control, I find myself grasping for something–anything—that I can control. Tonight, stricken with grief, this is what I found:

I can control what goes on within the four walls of my home.

I can control the values our sons are taught. My husband and I can enforce family dinners and set an example of togetherness and a strong moral compass.

I can control how empowered my children feel. I can remind them that they are strong, appreciated, and valued. Every. Single. Day.

I can control what I teach my kids about the world we live in. I can teach them to be cautious and observant, while at the same time teaching them not to live in fear.

I can control the compassion that I show my boys, so that in turn hopefully they, too, will learn to be compassionate to those they encounter each day.

I can control the education that my sons receive about self-defense, so that God forbid they should ever end up in a similar situation, they may have a chance to save themselves and those around them.

I can control my own reaction to the awful things happening around us. I can try my damnedest to be strong so that my sons learn how to be courageous despite the evils that surround them.

I can control the way I talk to my children as they grow. I can ask the tough questions, and teach the hard lessons, and do everything within my power to ensure they remain in a good place both mentally and emotionally.

I can control how tightly I hold my sons, how gently I kiss them, and how many times I whisper, “You are so loved,” in their ears.

For everything I can’t control (which these days, feels overwhelming), I will focus on these things that I do have power over. These things that I can do starting this minute.

I can hope and pray that as other parents lead their children in the same direction, the world will become a safer place. And maybe, just maybe, when my sons are grown and have children of their own, there will be a little bit more “That Will Never Happen Here” in this world.

Casey Huff

Casey is a middle school teacher turned stay-at-home-mama to three littles. It's her mission as a writer to shine light on the beauty and chaos of life through the lenses of motherhood, marriage, and mental health. To read more, go hang out with Casey at: Facebook: Bouncing Forward Instagram: @bouncing_forward