“I’m sitting in an undergraduate psychology class when this guy runs in to the room exclaims ‘You gave me a D! Now I’ll never be a psychologist!’ He then draws out a gun, aims it at the professor and the professor falls to the floor. ”
“Oh my god” I say from my desk.
It’s February 12th, 2018 and I’m sitting in a different undergraduate psychology class listening to my professor describe one of her experiences as an undergraduate .
“Then the professor jumps up and says “Okay, everyone, now I want you to write down what just happened and give a description of the guy who shot me.’ ”
“Would an experiment like that be allowed today?” I ask.
“I certainly wouldn’t do that kind of experiment today, not with all the school shootings we have and guns being everywhere” my professor replies.
Two days later, on February 14th, 2018 I’m doing my readings for that class when I get a text from a friend.
“I see there was yet another shooting, this one in Florida.”
I feel no shock or surprise, just sadness and disgust.
“What part of Florida?’ I ask. I’ve traveled the state of Florida pretty extensively so I can’t help but wonder if this latest shooting happened in an area I’ve been to. Maybe it even happened in a building I’ve walked in front of.
“Parkland in Broward County” my friend replies. The town’s not familiar to me but the county is.
I Google “Florida shooting.”
“20 people injured. At least it doesn’t say anyone is dead”
“It’s a developing story. Hopefully they all stay alive” my friend replies.
A few minutes later another text comes through saying “Unfortunately, there are ‘a number of fatalities’. ”
“Happy Valentines Day, America!” I exclaim in to my phone.
“What a loving country. This is at least the eighth school shooting in seven weeks.”
More details from this latest shooting emerge. 17 people were killed. The shooter was a 19-year-old male who had been expelled from the school for fighting. The guns he used were purchased legally. He had a long history of disturbing behavior but the FBI failed to follow up on reports they got about him.
We’ve reached the point where shootings that result in few or no fatalities barely make the news-I couldn’t tell you the details of any of the other school shootings that happened this year-but the Parkland shooting has resulted in enough carnage to get everyone’s attention. It has resulted in a mass outpouring of grief and outrage. At first I try to limit the amount of memes I share on social media advocating for gun control and calling out the corrupt politicians for their complicity in the deaths of children but then I decide to share every last one of them.
When I return to school on Thursday the flag in front of the library is at half mast in honor of the victims of the Parkland shooting. It’s a nice gesture but it won’t prevent future shootings. I can’t help but wonder “Is this school next? Will the next school shooting be in the very library this half-mast flag is in front of?” The last school I attended had a shooting in its library.
On Friday night I’m watching a news show. The talk centers around the Parkland shooting. One guest points out that none of the other school shootings have resulted in change so what’s going to be different this time? Another guest points out that’s what different this time is that the child victims of this tragedy are speaking out.
The kids who were in that school are sharing their experiences, staging protests, calling out those who oppose gun control, making their way to Tallahassee to speak to their representatives.
Maybe he’s right. Maybe the outraged voices of those whose lives have been torn apart by our country’s gun epidemic are reaching a crescendo. Maybe they are becoming as loud, as regular, as impossible to ignore as the gunshots that ring out through our school hallways. Maybe they are becoming as threatening and dangerous to the anti-gun control crowd as guns are to this country. Maybe this is another ‘me too’ movement of sorts-“I too have been affected by gun violence and I will not stand for it anymore.” Maybe the addition of the voices of children who have watched their friends bleed to death on a schoolroom floor are what will push us toward a tipping point.
One can hope.