While many couples left their children with babysitters and sat in restaurants illuminated by white candles and red roses, some were forced to leave their children in hospital morgues lit by examination light and surrounded by the smell of embalming fluid. While many schools were filled with red roses and balloons, one school ran red with blood.
This may seem grotesque, but it was all too true for the parents of 17 children who were shot and killed at a Florida high school on Feb. 14, 2018, in yet another school shooting.
Unfortunately, this phenomenon seems to be integrating itself into our culture. While our parents practiced tornado drills, we practice active shooter drills.
The difference is stark. One is an act of God, predictable enough that some warning can be given. The clouds turn black and it usually rains. Sometimes it hails. The other is the act of evil individuals, predictable yet usually ignored. It can happen at any time in any place. It’s as much of a threat in a first-grade reading class as it is in a undergrad chemistry course.
And it’s happening too much.
Our country is at an intersection. The politicians who continuously ignore the cries of their people never went to school with the threat of never leaving. They’ve never been in the library at a university desperately trying to finish a 25-page paper when they must submit to an uncontrollable urge to find all the exits. They have never had to think about what they would do if someone opened fire in the middle of the room. They’ve never lived with that fear, but I have. Who knows how many more active shooter alerts will go out across campuses before the generation that has lived through it becomes old enough to
replace those who sit silently inside their buildings protected by armed guards.
The irony is morbid.
Some would say it’s a futile fear since my university has never had an active shooter. While that’s true, no one ever thinks it could happen to them. I’m more likely to experience a mass shooting than I am to attacked by a shark. But unlike the latter, I can’t just stay out of the water. As a student in the heart of pro-firearm Mississippi, guns are no stranger to me. When I hold one in my hand, the feel of the cold metal makes me feel powerful enough to protect anyone. Yet, I am still afraid. I do not fear the item itself, but I fear those who are allowed to wield it. I am afraid because it’s easier to buy a gun than to buy a home. It’s easier to purchase a firearm than it is to adopt a child. I fear because instead of enacting stricter laws for firearms, politicians like House Speaker Paul Ryan tell us to “step back and count our blessings.” For why? That only 17 families are planning funerals instead of birthday parties? As opposed to what? 18? 19? When will enough children have died to stir our leaders to action?
Because one life lost is a life too many.
It’s time for Washing to listen to the rest of the nation, the majority of the nation, because that is what a democratic republic is for. I do not want to live in a world where Donald Trump is President and I am not allowed to own a firearm. But even more than that, I do want to live in a world where I can buy a 24-pack of crayons and a semi-automatic rifle in one click without ever leaving my home.