Before leaving home on Wednesday morning, I filled my fanny pack with Kleenex.
I was going to my 5-year-old son’s preschool graduation, a pandemic-esque ceremony in the school parking lot. Bouquets of orange and blue balloons adorned palm trees and parents masks, lei hanging in their hands, waiting for the child’s name to be called.
It’s hard not to think about a parent in Uvalde, Texas, that morning, a day after a gunman barricaded himself in fourth grade and killed 19 children and two teachers who, by all accounts, gave their lives to protect. This week kids everywhere-including at Robb Elementary-are packing their class stuff, hugging their friends and excitedly going for a summer break.
Instead, their families wake up in empty beds and homes full of reminders-footballs, toothbrushes, blankets, photos-of lost children, mothers who will never return.
I felt grateful and still so guilty, standing in front of so many parents, all of our children safe and smiling on the chapel stairs.
‘Now there are mothers who will never see their children wearing hats and dresses.
The thought strangles my heart; it feels like you can’t breathe. What happened in Uvalde seems unknown – but it happened. And it has happened before. And, unless there are major changes to gun regulations and access to mental health care in our country, it will happen again.
This is not about the Second Amendment right to keep and hold weapons. About how the gun is used and who can own it. This is about the right for our school children, to feel safe, not to worry if someone fires them with an AR-15 semi-automatic weapon.
These are children, some as young as 9. According to their families on social media, some are honor-roll students. Some enjoy football and basketball. One recently celebrated First Communion. One listens to “Sweet Child O’ Mine ”by Guns N’ Roses every morning on the way to school. One dreamed of entering Texas A&M University to become a marine biologist. One has been saving to pay for a family vacation to Disney World.
And blaming schools – lack of security, unarmed teachers – is useless and wrong.
After filming at Columbine High School in 1999, Congress began providing federal money to improve security at schools — campus officers, key training camps — to prevent further genocide. According to a 2018 report from the Urban Institute, 19% of elementary school students, 45% of high school students and 67% of high school students in the U.S. attend school with campus police officers.
Even in the preschool my son attended, the students periodically practiced key exercises. I would see a photo on a Google drive shared with 5 -year -olds – including my son – gathered at his desk, hands on his head. In preschool. The pictures are haunting.
But I know. These teachers – like the two people killed on Wednesday – want to protect the children. But what gun skills and safety tactics should be in the job description?
A friend of mine, a public school teacher in Honolulu, took to Instagram Wednesday, sharing his thoughts about the shooting during a break from graduation training.
“I looked at the faces of the students who were eager to share their achievements with their parents and friends. I listened to them talk to each other. I felt weak and heartbroken. Our children need to feel safe in school. “
Another educator I know posted another post on Instagram: “Every teacher you know has thought about this.” About how fast they could lock the door. About to spread or group together. About how hard it is to make a little kid screw up.
“Per. Teacher, “he wrote.
Teachers have spent their own money on school supplies. She has worked longer than necessary, giving grading papers at night and spending weekends creating curriculum. She has advised, supported, guided and loved the children. And now we expect him to sacrifice his life to protect it?
I don’t pretend to know the answer or how to bridge the political divide. I can’t even say where it was all wrong, or at what point it could have been prevented, or what I would have done if I had been in a locked class.
That morning I listened to my son’s preschool teacher talk about the bright future these kids had – and I wondered how quickly it could all be taken away. I cried at the moment because that was all I could do. Like my friend, I feel weak and heartbroken.
But there seems to be more we need to do.
Wherever you are on the gun control spectrum, we all need to find ways to keep our children safe, period.
Rungokno. Talk. weep. Write. choose.
Then hug your children. Because there are parents who can’t.
The American School Counselors Association has a list of resources and tips to help children after a school shooting here.