Allow me to start by issuing my very deepest condolences to any families and loved ones of the victims and survivors of all of these horrible school shootings in recent years. Hell, not even in recent years. Columbine ring any bells folks? Back then we all thought it couldn’t get worse and boy were we wrong. Saying we’re so sorry and offering up our prayers have become automatic. It’s not that we don’t mean it. We just don’t really understand the depth of what that means for those other parents.
Like the rest of the world, I was glued to the TV on December 14, 2012, watching the horrifying events of the Newtown shooting. I cried with families all over the world. We were left with this overwhelming sadness and frustration. How can this be real? How can we send our children to school after this? I tried to help my children understand something I couldn’t make sense of. They needed reassurance that we were safe here in our middle-class suburb. I hoped we were. I said we were. After the dust settled, I believed we were.
The next several years numbed me, as it did all of us who have been lucky enough to escape each subsequent shooting. Drills became commonplace. Safety councils, more prevalent. Letters home about drills and “incidents” were replaced with immediate alerts such as texts, email, and facebook notifications. Many schools also have adopted an anonymous alert system and the “see something, say something” slogan has been plastered all over schools everywhere.
My kids go to two different schools and at least twice a year I am alerted to an “incident” leading to a lockdown. Most commonly, it’s an unsubstantiated claim of a threat on social media. When I get the alert I skim it quickly (sometimes) and move about my day. We’ve come to expect this, like fire drills.
Today was different. I was too busy to stop ironing and answer my phone. The voicemail alert chimed and I hung up the shirt I had ironed before listening. It took a minute to understand what the recorded voice was saying. “incident……anonymous alert system……..student….firearm….knives…students are safe…..proceed without interruption….”
Wait, what?!? What. The. Actual. Fuck?! I immediately texted my girls saying if they didn’t respond I was coming to get them. Let me be very clear here, friends. I believed they were as safe as they could possibly be at this point. I didn’t then, nor do I now, doubt the validity of the voicemail and subsequent email and Facebook alerts. I just needed to know they were ok from them directly.
In the last three hours, I have listened to that voicemail at least 20 times. I’m stalking the schools’ website and facebook page, and refreshing local news sites every four minutes looking for every shred of information I can find. I don’t know why. I mean, really, what am I hoping to hear or read that might make me feel any better about this terrifying time we live in?
The worst of it came when my 14-year-old girl got in the car and told me she was in that classroom and she and her friends reported it. Just as the school stated, he did have a gun, magazine, and knives in his backpack. He had made several statements to that effect in front of my sweet girl. My girl, her friend and another nearby classmate all bravely reported the incident and then waited for help to come.
She was shaking and clearly only then allowing herself to understand how badly this could have gone. And just like that, all my resolve to keep my shit together and not fall apart in front of my girls went out the window and I was crying.
I am unbelievably proud of my girl and her classmates. I cannot imagine having the strength and composure at that age to calmly report a kid in that circumstance but, I’m so grateful they did. I am also unbelievably disgusted that these three children were ever put in that situation. I cannot believe that this happened in our quiet town. I know we say it can happen anywhere but I don’t think I believed that until now.
It’s not right that my child has to worry at school. It’s not right that some families aren’t as lucky as we are and tragedy wasn’t prevented. It’s not right that my stomach will now turn as soon as I pull out of the drop off lane at school. It’s not right that my daughter and her friends felt what I can only imagine as an indescribable fear waiting for help to come. The school handled this matter within minutes (literally). But even a minute is too long for a child to fear for their life.
I wish with my whole heart that we lived in a safer world. I certainly hope my grandchildren will fare better, but it doesn’t look good. In the meantime I am taking every chance I get to appreciate how fortunate we are. My kids and their classmates were spared. If your sweet child was one that wasn’t spared… there are no words. I can only imagine for a brief moment how that may have felt and hopefully will never truly know. I literally couldn’t breathe for a moment in time. I cannot imagine living with that feeling day in and day out. I am so incredibly sorry for those families. There has to be a safer future for our kids. I still have seven years of schooling until my youngest is out. That means I will have that worry in my heart for seven more years. We have to do better for our babies. We just have to.
Megan is a stay at home mom taking motherhood one day (read: glass of wine) at a time. When she isn’t busy embarrassing her teenaged twins with her mere presence, she can be found obsessing over her 10-year-old son or talking to her dogs and cats while her husband answers on their behalf, voices and all. She can be found on her Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/megan.loden/ on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/megan.loden.5?ref=bookmarks or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/megan_loden?s=09. Her writing can be found on Twiniversity here https://www.twiniversity.com/?s=Megan+loden and on Sammiches and Psych Meds here https://www.sammichespsychmeds.com/?s=Megan+loden and on Scarymommy at https://www.scarymommy.com/author/megan-loden/