On 9/11, I was 22 years and 1 month old. I was in my 2nd week of my last semester in college. I was 425 miles away from home. I was a kid and my world had just changed. On a daily basis, I recall what life was like when there wasn't a concern about insane people hijacking our planes and slamming them into buildings. I barely remember being able to wait at the airport gate for your loved one and being able to go through airport security with full sized bottles of shampoo while still wearing your shoes.
On Friday, when yet another school shooting took place, I mourned for our school age generation. Yes, this has been going on a while, sadly but there is something so horrifying about the Friday shooting that broke me down to another level. I held it together for the most part on Friday. I stayed away from reading anything about the incident. I knew what happened. I didn't need to know more. I bawled on the way to the work holiday lunch and cried that night before going to the gym when I watched the local Priest interviewed. I knew better. Turn it off, Michelle.
Then on Monday, I walked onto a middle school campus. On a busy week, I visit 10 school campuses. Because this is the last week of school in my area, I'm going to 3. Yesterday I expected to be business as usual at this school. I've grown close to the students I work with at this particular middle school. It is the part of my job that I enjoy the most-building relationships with youth. One girl I have known since she was in 6th grade. She is now an 8th grader. She is about 5'2" and weighs probably 90 pounds on Thanksgiving, after dinner. She is tiny with a firecracker personality and steers towards being a no-nonsense gal.
She was broken down. Empathy isn't a huge trait of most 8th graders. They are very "ME ME ME" at that age but I experienced empathy yesterday from them which made me experience extreme sadness for them. A group of 3 very sweet girls, specifically the firecracker, discussed what they saw on the news and had read online. All 3 have iPhones so the world is at their fingertips 24/7. I debunked some myths (no, those kids didn't write goodbye notes to their parents-they didn't have time for that) and told them that if they were feeling very sad to stop watching the news. That was my mom's advice on the days following 9/11 when I was going deeper and deeper into the media rabbit hole of sad stories.
Then the reality hit. These students started talking about lock downs and where they would hide at their school if someone was on campus with a gun. One would climb on top of a bookshelf. Another would go under the teachers desk. "Why do they tell us to go under our desks? They aren't enclosed." "I wouldn't want to hide in the bathroom by myself." "Why don't teachers have guns? If I was a teacher, I would have a locked up gun in my desk, ready to shoot someone if they came in my class with a gun." "My parents talked to me this weekend about what to do if that happens here."
It took everything I had not to start crying. I promised myself that I would wait until I got in my car. I just listened and reminded them that in an emergency at school, they should always listen to the adults because they have a plan and their best interest at heart. And I thought about what I worried about in middle school. Never these things. Living in California, we had earthquake drills and I think those were scary enough to ponder. Ceilings falling on our heads, the earth splitting in two below our feet. Those were my 8th grade concerns.
Never did I ever worry about someone walking onto my middle school campus and opening fire. Never was it even discussed as a possibility or something to prepare for. But these students are faced with that reality. These teachers are meeting to come up with plans and our society has to be faced with how to calm the fears of kids who are scared to step foot in their schools. Schools. A place of learning and fun for most, anxiety and fear for others. And now, anxiety and fear for most.
On Friday, I think many young people faced their generational shift. They might be too young to know it though. They might be too deep into the "ME ME ME " phase to recognize it but for our country, Friday was a turning point. Changes are going to be made. They must be made to protect us from things like this. I hope this generation of young people remembers Friday and can look back in 11 years and know that our law makers did something to make the world a safer place.
Continued prayers for Newtown.
My friend Heather wrote a great blog post on the media response to this. I agree with all of it.