The first act of violence I vividly remember was September 11th, 2001. I was in third grade and my mom pulled me out of school that day because apparently, to her and a lot of other parents, schools were no longer safe. It was the first time I remember thinking that it was safer to be out of school than in it. That day, schools were seen as a potential target.
I learned about Columbine in high school. One of the first school shootings that rocked the nation. I am sure those older than me remember where they were when that event took place; the moment they first realized school wasn’t safe. When the shooting took place in 1999 I was only 7 and yet it took years for me to fully understand the tragedy that was Columbine.I have read about it in books, watched interviews, documentaries, you name it. When what seem like random acts of violence strike, obsession skyrockets because humans have a hunger to find answers to what they don’t understand. And at first, no one understood. And now, I am still not sure if we do.
I have grown up with gun violence. I have never held a gun. I’ve never witnessed a shooting or heard a gun go off right before it ripped through the skin, but many others have. Rolling Stones reported that in 2015 alone, there have been 264 shootings in the 274 days of the year.
The first time I remember a school lock down drill was my first or second year of high school. This is how lock downs worked: we first heard the overhead alert and the lockdown began, no one goes in and no one goes out. We were told that if we were ever alone in the hall and heard the alert, we were to run to the closest door before it was shut and locked. I remember asking, “what happens if you don’t get into a classroom in time?” And the response was pretty much, “good luck.” When the lock down begins, no one one is allowed to let anyone into a classroom until it is over so if a student was to be locked out, they stayed locked out. After the initial lock down alert, the teacher locks the door, turns off all the lights and we all huddle up silently in a corner out of sight from the door. Then, we wait until we hear that the area is safe. When I was in high school they were mostly drills and no one took them seriously. We were all just happy to get out of having to participate in class and be on our phones. We all thought it was a joke, I never took it seriously. We never thought it would happen to us. We never thought we would be a target and luckily the schools I grew up in have yet to be one.
I say yet to be one not because I believe it will occur but because it would not surprise me if it did. School shootings don’t just hit dangerous inner city schools where dangerous people live, they hit nice suburban towns with nice suburban people, places no one would expect. If anyone had wanted to bring a gun into my high school, nothing would have stopped them. Our bags weren’t checked, we didn’t have metal detectors, all you needed was an ID to step into those halls. School shootings seem too easy and why would they not be? The way we perceive school shootings has changed minimally. The media continues to focus on mental illness instead of also pointing out other sociological causes, as if the only reasonable cause for a person to shoot up a school is because they are severely mentally ill. People become obsessive over the shooter while slowly forgetting about the victims. There were multiple injuries and deaths during the Columbine shooting and yet I only remember the names of the shooters. And unfortunately we are still tiptoeing around gun control.
I have grown up with school shootings to the point where it doesn’t even shock me. To the point where I say things like “it hasn’t happened yet.”
How sad is it that my generation has grown up with this type of violence. School shootings have become so common that they are just another news story to scroll over along with the other thousands of terrible stories we hear about everyday.
How sad is it that we do not fear the use of guns although people are killed daily by them.
That we do not fear schools although people are killed in them, that they bleed in them, that they cry in them and that children die in them.
Schools are a target. We can all see it. But we do not believe it.
I am no expert. I don’t have all the answers. I am just someone who grew up with this as my normal and if I were a parent, schools would terrify me. But schools continue to be filled and we raise a whole new generation of students that lack the fear of guns but continue to hear their shots.
“‘Where have all the birds gone?’ The young girl asked her father. ‘Well, do you see those stones over there? People realized they could kill two birds with one stone and have continued to throw them at the birds until all the birds died.’ The girl stopped and stared at the stones and defiantly said, ‘If the stones were killing the birds, why did they not just take away the stones?’ The father considered this for a moment but did not know the answer. He took her hand and they walked away until the stones were far out of sight and out of mind.”