So fellow travelers, this post references issues of current concern in the United States. It is my perspective, based on my personal experiences. The topic is difficult yet it has become impossible for me to move forward in my daily creative routine until I address it. Even after extensive editing, it is long. It may be difficult to read; I know this is by far the hardest post I have had to write.
On the morning of March 13, 1996, I put my not quite seven year old daughter on the school bus, waved goodbye from the porch and went about my morning routine of finishing chores and then walking our dog. At lunchtime, I turned on the TV to catch the midday news and weather. Instead of our local news team, I found network reporters covering a horrific incident which had occured a few hours before. It was my first encounter with a school shooting. My plans for the afternoon fled my mind, as I sat counting the hours until our daughter returned home, bounding off the bus full of the chatter and news about all the goings on in first grade that day.
“Mommy are you ok?” she asked when I hugged her a little tighter and longer than usual. Maybe she caught the tears in my eyes. “I am fine, I just missed you a lot today. How about a snack while you tell me what you did in school today.”
It did not matter on iota that the Dunblane School Massacre happened over 3,000 miles away, far across the ocean, in another country. I did not sleep much that night and it took every ounce of willpower to put my child on the bus and send her to school the next morning. I could not keep a morsel of food down all day, in fact I ate very little for several days until the weekend thankfully arrived. It had never occured to me that my child or any child would be shot in cold blood by by a total stranger while attending school. I felt completely and totally helpless, there was nothing I could do short of keeping my child home to protect her. I seriously considered it, even researched the process of applying to home school her. But she liked school and home schooling would deprive her of the socialization of being with her school friends.
At the time, my husband was working in another town, commuting home a few weekends a month. He had taken on the job as a short term contract, but the project had stretched far beyond the intial six weeks he said it would run with no defined end date. The long periods of separation were putting a strain on our marriage; I still have the note my young daughter wrote in crayon on a scrap of paper “Plese dont get a devors.”
I knew pulling my daughter out of school would take away much needed normalcy her school day provided her with and as the days passed and I watched the quick response of the British people as their Snowdrop Campaign successfully pushed for changes in Britain’s gun laws, my own fears began to ease.
Fast forward to 1999. Our marriage has weathered the storm (the note from my daughter had a lot to do with that) we now have a second daughter and I am considering making a move from active PTA volunteer to a full time staff position at our local elementary school. Then, late on the morning of April 20th, two boys open fire on their fellow students at Columbine High School. At the time it was the one of the worst mass killings and the worst school shooting in our history. Yet it was not until after the tragedy at Sandy Hook that lockdown drills became a routine practice in our own school district. By then I had been working as a special education teaching assistant for just over twelve years. Having started at our local elementary school right up the road from our home, the heartbreaking stories of the terror and loss of life at Sandy Hook was beyond my comprehension.
But not as incomprehensible as the complete lack of action by our legislators to take any steps to address the issues of escalating gun violence, particularly the issues surrounding civilian access to assault weapons, the arsenal which had become the firearms of choice for shooters intent on mass killing. Year after year we would go through our mandatory lockdown drills, feeling like sitting ducks, fully aware if an intruder managed to enter our building, there would be casualities. And nothing, no amount of carnage seemed enough to jolt our elected “representatives” into action, not even the terrible events in Las Vegas which left over 500 people injured and a devastating loss of 58 lives.
Nothing that is until the survivors of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida, stood up, called “BS,” took to the media and the streets and said “Enough!” If our elected so called “representatives” think these kids are going away, they have seriously underestimated the tsunami about to hit them square in the ass. Because its not just the Columbine generation standing up and calling their inaction out. It’s the survivors of decades of mass shootings, the friends and families who have lost loved ones to any form of gun violence, it’s the educators like myself who have now become the front line of prevention who are standing up with them to say
E N O U G H
We speak, finally, because these courageous young people have helped us find our voice.
And anyone who knows me well, knows I’m not about to shut up anytime soon.
Walk gently on the path my friends, and remember kindness matters, it may even save a life. ( more on that in the next post)