I want to preface this by stating that this is not a post about wanting people to feel sad. This is not a post to get attention or simply make events all about me. This post is meant to shed light about realities and deeper actions/conversations that must occur as they are long overdue.
-I am a teacher who is 12 years into her career. I know this week was the final week of school for many and find myself missing the days as a kid where my school's biggest concerns about contraband brought into the school was silly string, preventing reinactments of scenes in TV shows or movies where kids throw their papers into the air as they walk out of their classes to begin summer vacation, or a kid sneaking their pet in to show off at show and tell.
-I am a teacher who was in 6th grade when Columbine happened and watched the news coverage in class all the while being scared because our student teacher had been back in her hometown of Littleton interviewing for teaching positions. That same year, I experienced an interaction in which I felt torn about whether to say yes when another student who I didn't know asked if I was Jewish and believed in G-d because I remembered hearing that one of the first people killed had been asked about her belief in G-d prior to being shot.
-I am a teacher who was told not to come to school when I was in 7th grade by one of my teachers since threats against the school were made the day prior to Columbine's 1 year traumaversary.
-I am a teacher who was in 9th grade when in the same year we experienced the trauma of 9/11 in which we lost a beloved teacher that day and a school wide evacuation due to threats on the last day of school shortly after I had turned in my final exam. Once evacuated, my Nokia cell phone that was just supposed to be used for emergencies got used for one of the first times I had gotten it. That was before we had protocols about not using cell phones in times like these out of concern for what might result.
-I am a teacher who was a sophomore in college who was getting out of class when I found out Virginia Tech was experiencing a mass shooting. A girl who lived in the same dorm that I did lost a dear friend that day.
-I am a teacher who has subbed and/or taught in "the poor school", "the rich school", and many other fill in the blank dubbed schools. In my 12 years, I have watched yearly videos about how to do lockdowns and active shooter protocols. I have caught the aftermath of pepper spray after our school cop acted quickly when an unknown person entered a school and I happened to be out in the hall with a student. I just barely pushed the student back into the room as I quickly tried to lock the classroom door all while relying on my countless trainings telling me to remain calm and heard a door being opened from the outside. I have been the receiver of news from multiple students about them learning of a peer having a weapon and seeing the fear in their eyes. I have cried as I have listened to my students tell me of friends, family members, and other members of their communities being murdered by simply going about their everyday lives. I have been told by students that I need to avoid certain areas around the school because there was high potential for violence to occur around the same time I would be heading home for the day. I have been at the very festival that changed Vegas forever in its prior years. I just so happened to not attend but had colleagues, students, and community members there who witnessed things that have traumatized them forever. I was unsure of what to say to them as they shared their stories and fears in the days after. I have had to give speeches about how we act in lockdown situations more times than I want to know. I have been in more lockdowns than I can count and have felt a gamut of emotions as I have had what I hope to be safe people jiggling the door handle to check to be sure it was locked. I have been concerned about needing to report missing students during these lockdowns who went to the bathroom or had gotten called out of class moments prior and silently hoped that they had been able to get to a safe space as soon as the lockdown was started. In unknown lockdown situations, I have had to consider whether or not I would be the last to see the students in my classroom that day, if I would be able to protect them sufficiently, and/or what I would be experiencing the entire time if I were their parent who got news of the situation. I have been expected to proceed as if nothing has happened on days where yet again the country is dealing with tragedy unfolding as I teach. I have had to consider what the safest spots in every single classroom, hallway, and campus might be. I have had to listen to commentary that teachers should be armed and feeling like both that is not what I signed up for nor would ever want to face knowing that I have never held or shot a gun in my whole life.
I hate that the idea of a world where violence doesn't happen so prevelantly that we have become immune to it seems utopian. I hate that people have to live in fear of going to their places of worship, being targeted for aspects of their identity they cannot change, going to their school that is supposed to be a safe space, and other routine life activities. I hate that no matter how many times I contact senators, support organizations working to reform laws, and hear the "thoughts and prayers are with ____ community" it doesn't seem like things are a truly being considered by those who have the power to change things.
This isn't about whether or not people should be allowed to own any guns entirely, if mental illness is the main motivating factor of what lead to the violence and how the continued stigma surrounding it are dangerous or how x specific person is not doing their part in their position of power to evoke change. This is just 1 person's reality and part of millions who have similar stories. This is about not being a bystander who doesn't even try to take action. This is about how as a citizen of the world we each need to be proactively doing what we can to ensure our friends, families, members of the community, and outsiders who look to us to do the right thing are able to simply and safely go about their lives. The countless number of people who have been killed cannot be forgotten. As Elie Wiesel said once, "to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time."