There were eighteen of us sitting cross-legged along the oak cabinets in the far corner of the classroom. If someone was looking through the rectangular window of the hall door, we were hidden from view. Silent and eyes wide, these third grade students hadn’t moved a muscle in the last ten minutes. We had been on our way back from the school holiday concert, two minutes down the hallway and then a quick left to the classroom, when word spread quickly, from teacher to teacher, that we were going into lockdown. No one knew why, and as a long-term sub only a few weeks into the job, I was more than a little nervous. When we had arrived at our classroom, I had quickly done what we were trained to do in these situations – locked both my doors, lowered my blinds, and huddled the students where we hoped we couldn’t be seen. The group’s behavior had been exemplary, barely a whisper amongst them, when one little girl, arms wrapped tightly around her pulled-up legs, started to cry.
“What’s the matter, M?” I whispered to her.
“I’m scared,” she replied.
“You don’t have to worry,” I told her, hoping my words would console her. “Everything will be okay.”
“You don’t know that,” she responded as she focused her gaze upon mine. Then she repeated herself. “You don’t know that.”
And she was right. I didn’t. Sandy Hook had happened the week before and everyone, especially those of us spending time in schools, were reeling from the news. It turns out, in my case, that someone suffering with mental health issues had wandered off the street and into the building. The front doors were open because that was something we did back then to make getting into the concert easier for the families. We never questioned it. Thankfully, our situation never escalated and the police department was able to get this person out of the school and into a space to receive the help needed. But I have never forgotten this day, or the impact this new reality of school shootings has had – especially on the children.
To be honest, I was shocked when the events at Sandy Hook and the massive loss of lives, did not lead to some sort of change in gun legislation. Call me naive, but coming from a country where school shootings are almost non-existent, I thought the fix was evident. But what do I know? Xxx
For the record, mass shootings have tripled since 2013. Tripled. The Uvalde shootings in May of this year marked the 27th school shooting in 2022 alone (NPR.org). That is just schools, folks. So, here many of us are, finishing up our first week, and you need to know, we are not focused on how to make our rooms cute; we are focused on how to keep all of us safe. I keep my door locked and rope in the nearest drawer to secure the handle. I made sure to tell the new teachers in my wing to have a piece of furniture on wheels next to each entrance so they can quickly push it across the doorframe to help slow down an intruder. I have a huge rock by my back window, along with a pair of scissors, that I will use to smash the glass and cut the screen so my kiddos can get out of the classroom and run to safety. But in the worst case scenario, if an intruder breaches our recess door, my classroom is the first one he or she will encounter. And my sweet class, all 21 of them, will be trapped mid lesson in the 24 x 24 foot room we call our second home. I think about this every.single.day.
Sadly, gun violence is not the only critical issue we are facing in our country and in our communities. I feel like every time I get together with friends, some hot topic of conversation comes up: Racism, pronouns, the top 1%, abortion rights, immigration, climate change, mental health. The list goes on. What I have realized this past year is that all of us have something that we care deeply about and we are willing to shout our opinions from the rooftops. Frankly, friends, we are doing a LOT of talking. What I believe we need, to perhaps start moving forward, is a little less conversation, and a little more action. Thank you, Elvis.
Last summer when Logan and his friends were gathered around the kitchen table they spoke SO articulately about what they felt needed to change to create a United States they could be proud of and when I asked them what they were going to do to make it happen, their response was – What can WE do? My answer? Do Something. Anything. Baby steps for the things that you believe in. So, I decided I better put my money where my mouth is. Not that I haven’t always been into service, but after Uvalde, sh*t got real for me. I have made the 24th of each month *Do Something* Day. I hope you and your family will join me. Pick a topic you care about and do something to make a difference. Feel strongly about gun control? Write to your attorney general. Mental health at the top of your list? Make a donation to an organization with this goal, like NAMI – the National Alliance for Mental Illness. Uvalde breaking your heart? Write a letter to the staff and students of the school to remind them they are not alone. Want to volunteer in your community? I know a really fine organization. 🙂 The bottom line is, every single action will help. Not just one of us, but all of us. So whether you choose baby steps, or bold moves, please… do something.
Peace and Love Xxx