I sat on the edge of my bed, sobbing as my boombox’s radio filled my room with Sarah Machlachlan’s “Angel.” Less than a week ago I had danced to this song with my winter guard. Today, it was being played in honor of the 12 students and 1 teacher who were murdered at our high school by 2 student gunmen who also took their own lives. School violence like this hadn’t happened on this scale in our country until now, and it certainly hadn’t happened in Littleton, Colorado. I had been glued to the television for days, watching in alternating horror, disbelief, and numbness as the news unpacked this tragedy. I left the television to go to friends’ houses, to attend a vigil at my church, to visit the enormous memorial at Clement Park, to mourn at funerals, to go to speak with a pastor. Family and friends came to visit, bringing flowers and food. My aunt asked me how I was, I said I was fine. She looked at me in disbelief.
I wasn’t fine. I wasn’t fine at 16 years old, in the days following the shooting at my high school, and I’m not fine now, at 35 years old, in the days and months and years following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, or the shooting in Las Vegas, or the shooting at Pulse nightclub, or the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, or the shooting at Virginia Tech, or the shooting at ….
In 1999, the conversation wasn’t focused on gun control, and our terrible tragedy was considered unique. To that end, the conversation at the time did include safety measures for schools for moving forward. Marjory Stoneman Douglas knew all those safety measures. They practiced, as all American schools do, multiple times a year, and they did it well when their day came. And yet those 17 were still murdered in their school. The stories of students and teachers in closets and under desks, hiding in bathroom stalls, and racing through the hallways are the same stories we told back in April of 1999 as we gathered with our friends. The photos that immediately came out of Parkland, Florida are the same as the photos from Littleton, Colorado following April 20: parents clutching their children, people sobbing, teenagers looking scared and in disbelief.
It’s been 19 years, and nothing has changed about the tragedy of school shootings. The devastation and destruction that this type of tragedy creates lasts for a lifetime for every single person who is involved.
What has changed in the past 19 years are the brave voices who are speaking out to advocate, to hold accountable, to take steps so that this most reprehensible of tragedies will not continue. I am in awe and in complete support of these bold and long-awaited voices.
I add my voice to this swelling tide as a 16 year-old girl who was heartbroken and didn’t know what to do except move forward, and I add my voice to this resounding chorus as a 35 year-old woman with two children of my own. I’m not fine, and these are not stories I like telling, but they’re stories that must be told to understand the depth and breadth of the tragedy of school shootings, outside the immediate consequences.
I’ll share one story in this series a week as we move toward the 19th anniversary of the shooting at my high school. It is my hope that sharing my stories may encourage others to share their own. It is my hope that sharing my stories will help our voters and lawmakers understand what’s really at stake in our schools and for our nation when we allow this violence to move forward unchecked.
I’ll proudly join the March For Our Lives tomorrow, and I hope you will, in your respective cities, too. It is no longer a time to be numb, no longer a time to sit quietly. I’ll march tomorrow for myself, for my children, for my former students, for my friends who cannot march, and for so many others who deserve better.
#theaftermath #whatreallyhappens #19yearslater #mystory #ourstories
#marchforourlives #neveragain #momsdemandaction #everytown