Earlier today I went into the kitchen to prepare my Trader Joe's salad for lunch. And by prepare I mean open the package and add extra chopped lettuce to it before I toss the dressing. I turned on the TV to catch up on the Olympics and I stopped in my tracks on the way to the refrigerator to grab the lettuce. Another school shooting. This one in Florida. My entire body was covered in sustained chills. Tears came. I watched the all-too-familiar site of children running, terrified, with their hands up. I watched the horrified faces of parents waiting, tears streaming down their faces, desperately hoping for one of those children to run directly to them. I listened as the reporter interviewed various people to discover that the shooter, believed to be a former student, was still on the loose (he has since been detained). A 14 year old girl detailed how she ran by dead students and teachers on her way out of school.
We all know the drill. The kids know it, the parents know it, and the United States government knows it. Kids are prepared for it with "active shooter" drills. Parents simply cannot prepare. And the government? Nothing but thoughts and prayers, if it is big enough news. This one will be.
Admittedly, I am one of those moms who freaks out and assumes my kid is lying in a ditch on the side of the road if I can't get ahold of them. Or if I can't reach my mom I worry that she has fallen down the stairs and she can't get up. So I can't help but wonder as I once again watch crowds of terrified and grieving parents gather in front of a school: When will it be me? When will I be the terrified parent waiting outside of the school to find out if my child is dead or alive?
With a quick internet search I found that there have been 18 school shootings in America so far this year. It is February 14. That amounts to three shootings per week at a school in this country. Three shootings per week at a school in this country. I just cannot get my head around that.
I saw a powerful facebook post following the recent Kentucky shooting that was from a dad. I don't believe he was involved in the incident. He was just a dad. A dad with the same chills and tears that I had today. He shared a photo of Bailey Nicole Holt, just 15 years old when she was killed in the Kentucky school shooting. He told parents and readers to SAY her name. LOOK at her face. He pleaded for people to recognize, to truly SEE, that another 15 year old child had died from the bullet of a gun while she attended school.
Is that part of the problem? Have we become so accustomed to a school shooting that we don't even see the victims anymore? How can we not see children who are being killed before their lives have even begun? How can we not see their faces, their pasts, and what their futures may have been? How can we not see that there is so much more than the face of the tragedy of the day? For the families, friends, teachers, and students involved, the heartbreak doesn't fade when the news stations disappear from town. For them, the tragedy has just begun. Do we see that?
I have to think we close our eyes because as a country, we continue to do nothing.
I took a break from writing and by the time I came back they had learned that there are 17 dead in Florida today. High school students and teachers. Another shooting with an AR-15 rifle with multiple magazines. Years ago I wouldn't have even known what the meant. Today, most of us know exactly what that means. I read through tears the texts of parents with their children inside the school with an active shooter. "Play dead," said one. Most said, "I love you."
So I wonder when it will be me. I think that is a question we should all be asking ourselves. I heard a woman being interviewed with her daughter in Florida today and she said she never thought it would happen there. And then it did. WHY?!? Why would she think it would never happen there? No one in this country has that luxury. Don't you get it? It can happen anywhere. It is happening everywhere. No one is immune. Every school is vulnerable.
As parents, we have to do something. As human beings we have to do something. We have to do it as a country. We have to change the laws to protect our children. This is not a partisan issue. Study after study shows that the majority of the country want common sense gun laws. This has become an issue against our own government who is putting campaign dollars over the wishes and needs of our country and of our children. As we have seen, change will not be easy. It will require the determination of the masses, which means we must come together on this issue. So I would ask the question, If we can't protect our own children in this country, how great can we ever be?
Please. Do what you can to make the change we must begin to see. Vote, donate, march, sign petitions, write letters, run for office, attend rallies and vigils, wear t-shirts. Enlist your children. Use your voice. Inaction is not an option.
If, like I do (and I believe you should), you ask yourself the question, "When will it be me?" then the only response is to be an active participant in demanding change.
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