Yesterday, yet another school shooting happened.
I sat in front of my computer, unable to turn away. I watched the death toll rise in numbers that also matched the ages of the students at the high school.
15 presumed dead.
17 fatalities reported.
My own 17 year old texted me that she was staying after school to work on a project. Part of me wanted to scream “NO! Schools aren’t safe places! Come home now!”
Instead, I sent her a thumb’s up. I held my fears to myself.
A couple of years ago, my husband Josh and I went to Barcelona. My sister came to mind the teenager. I packed my bags, ready for a well-earned break from life. Josh and I wandered about the city, saw the cathedral, got lost in the Latin Quarter, sat on the beach – all those lovely things.
One evening, we found a spot, as one of the fountains did a water/light show every night. As we sat, our phones pinged.
It was an email from the school. There was a credible threat of violence. The high school, and therefore the elementary school across the street, were on lock down. Police were swarming campus to look for the threat.
“I’m sure everything’s okay.” my husband said as he texted our son who was sitting in a classroom in that school while I texted my sister. My younger sister, who was a high schooler when Columbine happened, asked if she should stay at home or go up to the school. “Wait there.” I said. We only lived a few blocks away.
My husband got a hold of our son Sean, who said he was fine, they were locked in the classroom, it was all actually a bit boring. Sean is a bit unflappable. Knowing he was still calm helped me be calm as we got more updates from the principal and our son. Eventually, police got to his classroom, patted down each kid, and sent them on their way home. My sister texted when he got home.
Everyone got home safely that day.
Yesterday, people didn’t get home safely.
I looked at scenes yesterday through tears. As a parent, I’ve had to imagine how each of my kids might have reacted in a similar situation. As a parent, I’ve been having “What if…” scenarios running through my head for twelve hours.
What if a shooter entered my girls school?
Would the older one hide? Or would she run? Would she be the one pulling a friend along? Would she get to safety first, or would she think she had to go rescue her sister?
Because her sister Maura is in one of the special ed classrooms.
Her sister wouldn’t know what to do. Her sister wouldn’t know what “active shooter” meant. Her sister wouldn’t know to hide, or to be quiet. Her sister is one of the most vulnerable in the building. Defenseless.
Horrible realizations come over me. I need to tell my older daughter to save herself. To trust that Maura’s teachers and aides will protect her and keep her safe. “Don’t think of your sister, save yourself.”
I also realize that by depending on teachers and staff members to watch over Maura, I’ve asked them to put their lives on the line for my daughter. And that is a lot to ask of a person making $11 an hour. Maybe $13.
And I know, her group wouldn’t be easy to evacuate. Some kids in the program are in wheelchairs. Some balk at changes in routine. Doesn’t matter if that change is going for ice cream or running from a shooter – they will balk.
They are, honestly, sitting ducks. Easy targets.
And the staff would protect them. I know that.
And the idea that some other person would use themselves as a human shield to protect my daughter is a burden I have to carry. I shouldn’t have to ask this of any person. But that’s what we expect from teachers. That’s what we’ve seen from teachers and staff in every school shooting.
Somehow, even after a room full of first graders were massacred in a hail of bullets, we have gotten this idea that there is nothing we can do. Maybe arm and fortify the schools more, but that school shootings are now normal. We’ve accepted that as normal. This has become normal.
School shootings have become normal.
I refuse to accept that.
This isn’t normal.
“But Phoebe, what can we do?”
First, get angry. Angry that our society has come to this.
Now, channel that anger and call your representatives. Tell them that you want something done – better laws, better enforcement of those laws, gun bans, better mental health coverage, more accessible help for families in a mental health crisis – pick something and share that with your senator or congress person. It’s easy to Google them. All my representatives are on Twitter. The phone numbers to their offices are public, call them. Email them. Tweet them.
Then, maybe look up those who are taking money from the NRA or voting in a way that benefits the NRA. Decide if you still want them in office. Vote accordingly. It’s an election year – we can start making changes right now.
And maybe – maybe rethink your stance on guns. I’m not anti-gun. I know lots of responsible gun owners. But as a whole society, we’ve gotten unreasonable about gun ownership. Irresponsible. Something major has to happen.
I think our students are worth it.
I hope you do too.