When I was a kid, maybe in 4th or 5th grade, our school was put on lockdown. Someone had robbed a nearby bank at gunpoint and was on the run. Most of the schools in the area did the same thing – locking down, just in case. As a child, there was a mix of excitement and fear there. Excitement because it was a shift from our day to day activities and because it was difficult to imagine the real danger being within our school under those circumstances. And fear because… what if it was?
We mostly followed the lead of the teachers and administrators that day, all who suspended regular academic activity and allowed us to play Heads Up 7 Up, or in my case – the Oregon Trail (since we were in the computer lab at the time of the lockdown). But as the hours spun on, the excitement began to fade – replaced now by boredom and hunger.
It was long past regular school closing hours when we were finally allowed to be released from lockdown and into our waiting parent’s arms. In the end, we were mostly just annoyed that a few hours of our free time had been dedicated to sitting in a classroom waiting the situation out.
And that was the extent of the most dangerous day I ever endured in school while growing up.
Today, some 20 years later, kids have to worry about a hell of a lot more.
Because today, on what would otherwise have been just a regular school day in a quiet sleepy town with only 3 police officers on the force (in other words – the kind of place where no one would ever expect anything like this to happen), a grown adult walked into an elementary school and started taking lives.
I’ve seen different reports on various sites, but it looks as though at least 27 are now dead. 20 of those were children. I spent most of my day breaking inside, thinking both about those who have been lost, and those who will spend the rest of their lives with the horrific memories of surviving.
I cried when I first saw the news. Real and immediate crocodile tears bursting to my eyes. Nothing about this is OK. Nothing like this should ever happen anywhere. But especially not in an elementary school, to hundreds of innocent children who started their day firmly believing they would always be safe.
I wrote about there being evil in this world just a few weeks ago. Today, I am even more sure of that fact.
What have we come to, when no one is ever safe anywhere?
Not even at an elementary school.
I had other things I intended to write today. Obnoxious jokes about some of the twists my life has taken lately and updates on where I am at in the foster to adopt process. But now… none of it seems right. Because I can’t wrap my head around anything but this.
This tragedy that never should have happened.
And a sick man who clearly sought out children to target.
Yesterday I joked online about my experience getting my fingerprints done. I was there in order to get cleared for my adoption home study. The three gentlemen next to me were there in order to get cleared for their automatic weapons licenses. I posted the juxtaposition on Twitter, completing the thought with a #differentworldviews hashtag.
Yesterday, I thought it was funny more than anything else
Today, I just think it is sad.
I was horrified as I watched the news and saw how many stations were interviewing children. They had just gone through this unbelievably traumatic event. To think that reporters were standing outside that school like vultures waiting to pounce on them… I just do not understand. Even the pictures being posted everywhere online felt wrong. Can you imagine being at your moment of deepest despair, completely unaware that anyone is photographing you, only to then find those images later plastered across the web?
Something about that seems so very wrong to me.
You know what horrified me even more though? The multiple tweets I saw by multiple people claiming that this, along with other recent shootings, was all just part of a conspiracy planned by those who want to strip Americans of their right to bear arms. Are you fucking kidding me right now?!? 27 people are dead, more than half of them children aged 5-10, and the first thing you can think of is to defend your own gun rights? Something about that made me furious. How incredibly self-involved can people be, worrying about their right to bear arms and jumping straight into a defensive position within hours of all those lives being so brutally taken away by a madman? It was all I could do to control my own anger, and the only thing that stopped me from furiously replying to the vitriol myself was the fact that there were others out there (more eloquent than I) doing it for me.
@ChristyRidTram tweeted out “How is this for a ‘gun right’ – the right of a 5 year old to not be shot by one.”
@JohnFugelsang captured my thoughts completely when he tweeted “Dear Right Wing NRA Pals: Nobody’s coming to take your guns, but thanks for letting us know you’re the real victims here.”
And @MikkoAlanne really summed things up quite nicely by tweeting “Gun laws work. Ask the countries that have them:” to which he attached this picture:
I’m sorry, I’ve never been a fierce advocate one way or another when it comes to gun regulations. And it never would have occurred to me to turn any of this into a political conversation had it not been for the myriad of disturbing reactions I saw today where people somehow managed to paint themselves and their precious gun rights as the real victims in this tragedy. I personally am not a gun owner, nor do I see myself ever being one, but I grew up in a family of gun owners and I appreciate those rights. I have friends up here in Alaska who are responsible upstanding citizens, and who also have their own arsenals. I’m cool with that – in fact, I’m totally counting on their protection if the zombie apocalypse ever actually hits. But you know what? If stricter laws would mean people like this could not get their hands on weapons they will then use to gun down 27 people in one day – maybe those are things we should be discussing. These mass killings don’t seem to be happening in countries with stricter regulations like Australia and Spain. But now (and especially just hours after this tragedy occurred) is not the time to be starting those discussions. Trying to make this seem like all part of some bigger ploy is absolutely ludicrous. And making those conspiracy theory accusations as the details are still just coming out – disgusting. Shame on you. Those children and adults whose lives have been stripped away from them deserve more than that. This was not a conspiracy theory meant to strip you of your precious weapons. It was a heinous act committed by a man so sick in the head I cannot even fully comprehend it. People are dead. Children are dead. Anyone trying to take the discussion to anything beyond the tragedy of that right now, might just have a few screws loose themselves.
There are so many other places our attention should be focused at this point.
My heart is breaking, and I do not understand.
I wish there was something I could do, something we could all do, for the children and families who are now hurting.
@doctordani, a child psychologist I know through this crazy blogging world, did send me some links to resources this afternoon. They are mostly resources for those currently struggling with today’s tragedy, but I thought I would pass them along just in case:
Psychologist Recommendations re: Today’s Shooting — http://www.wfpl.org/post/kids-may-ask-about-newtown-shooting-be-frank-and-reassuring-psychologist-says
National Child Traumatic Stress Network — http://www.nctsn.org/resources/audiences/parents-caregivers/what-is-cts/12-core-concepts
Risk Factors for Traumatic Reaction — http://www.nasponline.org/resources/crisis_safety/Risk-Factors-Trauma-Reaction.aspx
Responsible Media Coverage of Crisis Events Impacting Children and Youth — http://www.nasponline.org/resources/crisis_safety/Media_Guidelines_2012.pdf
Talking to Children About Violence (available in other languages) — http://www.nasponline.org/resources/crisis_safety/talkingviolence.pdf
A National Tragedy: Helping Children Cope — http://www.nasponline.org/resources/crisis_safety/terror_general.aspx
Helping Your Child Manage Distress after a School Shooting — http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/aftermath.aspx
Coping with Crisis: Children with Special Needs — http://www.nasponline.org/resources/crisis_safety/specpop_general.aspx
Tips for Talking with Youth After Disaster — http://store.samhsa.gov/shin/content/SMA11-DISASTER/SMA11-DISASTER-09.pdf
Talking with Kids About the News — http://www.pbs.org/parents/talkingwithkids/news/talking.html#.UMuDECIqie8.facebook
Tips for Survivors of a Traumatic Event — http://store.samhsa.gov/shin/content//NMH02-0139/NMH02-0139.pdf
Managing Traumatic Stress — http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/recovering-disasters.aspx
Disaster Distress Hotline (for disaster crisis counseling) — (1-800-985-5990)
Mental Health Services Locator Toll-Free: 1-800-789-2647 (English and Español)
National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-TALK
She also sent a Mr. Roger’s quote I think we could all probably benefit from:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster’, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” ~ Mister Rogers
Beyond that, I am at loss right now.
The whole thing feels so senseless. And as much as I want to help, I’m not sure where any of us would even begin with that endeavor.
But I am certainly open to suggestions.
In the meantime, I hope all you mommies and daddies hug your children extra tight this holiday season, as they may be coming to realize for the first time that there is evil in this world.
At nearly 30 years old, it is a realization I am still grappling with.