Repost: A Tale of School Shootings

Like everyone else in the nation, I was sickened and hurt to hear about yet another school shooting in this country that took place in Oregon last week.  The only hope that I’ve been able to hang on to is the echoes of more and more people’s voices crying out for change.  Are we finally at a point where we are going to make something different? This is a topic that I talked about extensively in this post last year, and feel that it is only right to dust it off again at this time.

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A Call to Action :: A Tale of School Shootings – originally posted June 30, 2014

I came across a shocking statistic the other day.  Did you know that there have been 74 school shootings since the Sandy Hook massacre in late 2012?  This number equates to at least one school shooting each week.  You may already know about this, since the findings went viral on Facebook, Twitter and all the social media-ites even to the point of raising a large amount of criticism.

This article constructively sums up how the advocacy group identified the shocking number – including further categorizing many of the school shootings the group contained in its original analysis.  That’s right, seemingly, in an attempt to invalidate the original 74 number, the authors of the article (linked above) actually broke down the so-called “school shootings” into more explanatory groupings like incidents in which the shooter intended to commit mass murder (ex. Sandy Hook, Columbine), incidents related to criminal activity (such as drug dealings and robbery) or personal altercations, and incidents unconnected to the school community and/or occurred after school hours.  Cause hey – if someone is shooting and it’s after 4:05pm… then it’s okay??!

I’m not saying that these authors condone acts of violence, by any means.  But something about the way our society is handling this situation, by excusing the makings of this school shooting statistic or denouncing the validity of its shock factor, sort of makes my blood boil.

I think that one of my greatest strengths (and most annoying weaknesses) is my dedication to self-reflection.  I’m constantly self-criticizing, wondering if I handled a situation correctly or picked out the right shirt for the day, etc.  I’m also constantly looking towards the future.  Like will I probably have kids within the next 6-10 years?  Of which, the answer is most likely yes.

Here is where I get to the problem.  (To all the current parents out there, I don’t know how you’ve made it this far with your dignity and composure still in tact.)  My problem is with raising children in a world where I have to be legitimately fearful of an attack at their place of education – where each morning, after I hug my little one at the front door, it is perfectly normal for me to be scared if he/she will walk back through it later that afternoon.

I don’t understand why we are in the situation that we are in now.  I don’t understand what goes through the mind of someone who wants to commit mass murder or any acts of violence on a school campus.  Is it for the fame and recognition?  Is it because they don’t feel understood?  Do they think it’s cool in their minds?  I don’t know if there are answers to these questions, but I do know that I have learned nothing from the 74-ish school shootings.  I don’t remember any of the shooters names, nor do I want to know them.  If it’s because he/she(?) felt misunderstood or wanted to be cool, the only thing that I can say is that there are far other, better ways to get your voice heard in this world and far easier ways to be ‘cool.’  There are so many groups and people who can help you find and express your coolness.

What I also know is that there is an answer to this problem.  I don’t think it’s a simple one to find nor do I think that we know exactly what it is yet.  But, we have some pieces to work with – like stricter gun laws, improved mental health care, art therapy, etc.  Hey – maybe we can all perform and promote a few extra acts of kindness?

Ideally, this post is about a call to action.  It’s about deciding – whether you think the answer is any or none of the pieces I mentioned above – that you will not accept existing in a world where our children are at risk of living another day purely because they stepped foot inside a classroom.  It’s about deciding that we might not have all the solutions yet, but that ignoring the shock factor of a once-a-week-school-shooting statistic is not one of them.  It’s about deciding that change begins and ends with you, and that waiting for the 75th incident – whether its a mass shooting or a misunderstanding on the playground – is about one statistic too late.

*What do you think?  What should we do to prevent school violence in America?

We will never have a perfect world, but it’s not romantic or naïve to work toward a better one. -Steven Pinker

 

Repost: Thoughts on Tragedy from a D.C. Resident

Eek.  Yes, I haven’t written on here in a while and yes, this is another repost back to back.  Forgive me?  I promise to get my act together because – you know – that time of year is coming up again. :)  In the meantime, in honor of 9/11 tomorrow, I feel like it is only appropriate to repost this article from a few years ago.  My emotions on the subject haven’t changed since then.

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“Thoughts on Tragedy from a D.C. Resident” Originally posted September 16, 2013

On a Tuesday in the 10th grade, I sat twiddling my pencil in home room.  I had Mr. H., the geology teacher, who was notoriously known for taking roll call for the first two minutes and then leaving us to our own devices.  Twiddling a pencil seemed appropriate for an early September day.

“Do you think _____ will ask me to homecoming?” the chatty blond-haired girl, with the large chest, asked her friend at the table in front of me.

“If he’s smart,”  her twig-bodied friend blurted out in between cracks of “illegal” bubble gum pops.

I eavesdropped and flipped through the pages of my trigonometry book with my left hand as I glanced over my schedule for the semester.  I made a mental note to check in with the guidance counselor later that afternoon; AP European History needed to be nixed.

I let out a big sigh of relief, as the bell finally rang, and I exited out into the hallway.  I found my ‘boyfriend’ standing at the intersection of the two halls.  That’s weird, I thought; he isn’t usually on the same floor at this time.  T. sauntered over, in my direction, and whispered in my ear, “something’s happened.”

“What do you mean something’s happened?” I quickly responded.

“Mrs. L. told us in home room.  Something’s happened in NY.  She turned the TV on.  Didn’t you see it?” he asked.

“No; I didn’t see it!  Mr H. never turns the TV on!” my sentence trailed off as I peered back towards Mr. H’s closed classroom door.  The windows on either side allowed me to see him move from setting the phone down to reaching for the remote control.  An image of smoke billowing from the twin towers flickered on the screen.

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Experiencing 9/11 in Ohio was different from larger metropolitan areas.  I remember sitting on the tennis court during practice later that day, and listening to the eerie silence of a plane-less sky.  I remember eating dinner with my family in front of the TV and knowing that this was a moment in history, but not truly understanding what that meant.  I remember watching news coverage alone in my room later that evening; tears streaming down my face as I watched the firefighters clear the wreckage of Ground Zero.

I remember feeling so sad and united to other Americans in the days following those acts of terrorism, but also feeling so removed.  It was later reported that Flight 93 briefly flew over Cleveland before crashing down in Pennsylvania.  This was the closest my home city came to experiencing real fear in the wake of 9/11.  In a matter of weeks, things were back to almost normal.

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It wasn’t until I moved to the nation’s capital several years later that I truly understood what it was like to live with a constant fear of terrorism.  I feel it as I walk among my fellow D.C.-ers.  I know it when I hold my breath a little longer as the metro train stops at the Pentagon station.  I hear it when people speak of never flying on September 11th.

On 9/11, in the district, we sip our coffees a little longer in the morning.  We hug our loved ones a little tighter before we leave the house.  We do these things because the fear here is real.

In lieu of what happened in this city, less than 24 hours ago, I can’t help but think how this adds another fear to our list; the simple act of going to work.  I am deeply pained for the families of the victims, of course. There are not enough words or emotions to explain how saddened I am for their loss and what they must be going through now.  But, I’m also upset for their coworkers, the people working near-by, those of us who panicked as we scrolled through our mental log of friends who work for the Navy.  Were they at the Navy Yard location?  And then, that looming thought of it being the Navy today, but tomorrow – is it the Pentagon, the Senate, my office building in Tyson’s Corner, VA?

When I was younger, I learned that America is the land of the free and home of the brave.  I learned that people died fighting so that our country’s patrons can experience life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  But, as I say my prayers before work in the morning, as I anticipate feelings of visiting the Navy Yard metro stop in the future, as I squeeze my loved ones a little tighter tonight…

I wonder when the freedom from fear will become real.