Columbine High School. Virginia Tech. Sandy Hook Elementary. Pulse Nightclub (Orlando). Rt. 91 Harvest Music Festival (Las Vegas). Sutherland Springs Church (Texas). Stoneman Douglas High School.
As I learned about the horrific events that unfolded on February 14 at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, when a former student pulled a fire alarm and then picked off his victims with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle as they exited their classrooms, I turned to my husband and asked, "When will enough be enough?"
You see, just a mere 22 days earlier on January 23, a fifteen-year-old walked into a commons area in Marshall County High School in Benton, KY and opened fired on his fellow students before classes began that day. The gunman killed two and injured fifteen others. Marshall County H.S. is about three hours from where I live.
That Tuesday morning, I learned of the Marshall County shooting about an hour and a half after it occurred while I was at work.
I work in an elementary school.
Not even ten minutes before, before I knew what had happened two hundred miles away, I was bestowing stickers to three squirrelly boys for working hard in speech therapy and sending them back to their classrooms. After I read the news online, I immediately surveyed my room and mentally went over the lockdown procedures that have been in place in my district for at least fifteen years: hide kids, make sure door is locked, pull down shades, turn off lights, be quiet, and shelter in place until the authorities arrive and unlock the door. Most importantly, do not open the door for anybody, no matter what they say.
Then I went over the procedures that I've been mentally preparing myself to do in the event that I hear gunshots: make sure door is locked, stuff kids in storage closets, turn off lights, pull shades, shove furniture in front of door as a barricade, and arm myself with anything that I can throw at the intruder, which sadly consists of staplers, a hole puncher, and metal tins full of therapy cards.
Although the majority of school shootings happen in middle and high schools, Sandy Hook taught us that elementary schools, places where children between the ages of five and eleven spend their days learning to identify shapes, tie shoes, read, write, multiply, and become thinkers, are not immune. If it could happen in Sandy Hook, it can happen in any school. The event in Marshall County hit incredibly close to home and reinforced this fact - if it can happen in Marshall County, KY, then it can happen in Shelby County, KY as well.
So, I'm back to the question that I asked my husband on the day of my 44th birthday, a milestone that only one of the seventeen people whose lives were tragically cut short would reach - When will enough be enough?
It's a shame that we have to wonder if we'll be gunned down in our places of worship. It's a shame that we have to accept that there is a possibility we could be shot if we go to a concert, festival, or nightclub. It's a shame that 5-year-olds have to learn what to do in the event of an intruder in their schools. It's a shame that I will now forever be hesitant anytime the fire alarm goes off and the faculty wasn't given prior notice, wondering if it's truly a fire, an unannounced drill, or, heaven forbid, a tactic used by a gunman in order to lure us out.
There are no sanctuaries. There are no places of safety. There are no places of refuge. Concerts aren't safe. Nightclubs aren't safe. Churches aren't safe. Schools aren't safe.
I've listened to all the arguments. I've listened to gun owners who are scared they are going to lose their guns. I've listened to politicians, politicians who receive contributions from the National Rifle Association, say that guns don't kill people, but shooters do. I've listened to people say that we need better access to mental health counseling. I've listened to parents who are scared to send their children to school. I've listened to educators who, like myself, acknowledge the fact that one day we might be killed protecting the students we teach.
Gun control. Mental health. Lack of empathy. Self-interest groups. The media. Violent video games. Politicians. Lack of parenting. Who or what is the culprit?
All of it.
I'm not professing to have the answer, but here's one thing I do know - enough is enough. I, personally, am sick and tired of the "Pray for <insert school/town name here>" broken record routine that has become our national mantra as of late. All it is, is the equivalent of spinning one's tires in the mud. We cannot continue doing the same things we've been doing year after year, things that obviously aren't working, and expecting a different outcome than the one we keep getting year after year after year.
Until real change occurs in this country, real change on numerous levels, we will forever be caught in this vicious cycle.