“For the life of me I cannot remember
What made us think that we were wise and
We’d never compromise
For the life of me I cannot believe
We’d ever die for these sins
We were merely freshmen”
– The Verve Pipe, The Freshmen
I had planned to write a quippy, entertaining essay for my blog post this week. I had it all outlined and preliminary notes jotted down. I was looking forward to the laughs I’d get as I fine-tuned it. But then the Santa Fe school shooting happened and I decided to set that essay aside for another day.
Because I’m not feeling funny this morning. I feel sad and angry and helpless.
Yesterday during my perfectly normal Friday workout the video for the song above popped up on YouTube. I thought, “Hey, this was a good one!” and snatches of the song played in my head the rest of the day. Around eight o’clock they took on a different context. That’s about the time a co-worker stuck his head in my office and said, “Pray for Santa Fe. They have an active shooter situation.”
And you know what my first reaction was? I’m not proud of it, but it’s the truth.
My first reaction was exasperation. I thought, Again? Like my dog got out of the yard for the third time this week and I have to go chase her down.
And then his words really sunk in. Wait. . . Santa Fe? Like, our Santa Fe?
Santa Fe, Texas, is about fifteen miles from my house. This particular “active shooter situation” might as well have been in my back yard. It could just as easily have been my kids’ school.
From the time the shooting started (about 7:45 am) to the time it was over (who fucking knows because now hours feel like days) ten people were wounded and ten were dead. A lot of the dead were kids whose only mistake that day was showing up for first period Art class.
Can I just tell you how awful, how heart wrenching it was to see parents and aunts and uncles posting pictures of their high schooler on local Facebook groups begging for help finding their children because they couldn’t locate them after the shooting? And then the absolute punch to the head it was to see that same impossibly young face just a few hours later on news site as a confirmed kill?
Last night I was acutely aware that those ten families sent their children to school that morning just like I did, but theirs didn’t come home. I think of the messy rooms the kids probably left behind. Their dirty laundry still in the hamper. Their dishes in the sink. I think about their parents who have to come home to signs of their child everywhere, and yet, they’re child is gone, their lives ripped away by an angry boy barely old enough to shave.
And the shooter. . . The shooter is seventeen. Seventeen. You know what I was worried about at seventeen? Not getting pregnant before I graduated high school. I had asshole teachers in school, too, and I dealt with my share of bullies. I, too, had access to my dad’s gun closet. It was locked, but I knew where the key was. Not once did it occur to me to go into that closet. And I don’t remember any stories of any other school shootings at that time either. Maybe they happened, but they were by no means common place.
How in twenty years have we fallen so far that the brokenness of a seventeen-year-old kid leads him to think his only recourse to solve his problems is to shoot up a school? He told law enforcement officials he planned to kill himself after the shooting, but he couldn’t do it.
You know, I’m glad the kid didn’t kill himself. Not only because I want him to stand trial for what he did (I wholeheartedly do), but maybe this will give psychologists an opportunity to study him, see what they can learn. Maybe, just maybe, this kid can give us a clue how to make this stop.
Because that’s what we’re all looking for. We all want it to stop, but we don’t know how to make that happen. I see people saying a lot of things, throwing a lot of ideas out there. Hell, the “active” part of the “active shooter” situation wasn’t even over when the mental illness/arming teachers debate lit local social media pages on fire.
Think about the timing of that.
There was still a kid running around a school shooting police officers, shooting other kids and keyboard warriors decide now is a good time to scream at each other in all capital letters across the internet.
You know, that reminds me of something. Every time my dog goes out the back door she rushes over to sniff a hole where she once chased a rat. The rat isn’t there anymore. Hasn’t been there for years. But sniffing that spot first thing when she goes outside is her default, because the rat might be there. And when she finds the hole empty she shakes and goes on about her business.
That’s what we’re like every time there’s a school shooting. We have the same arguments over and over and over. We sniff the same hole hoping there might be a rat in there. And when there’s not we all go back to sleep until it happens again.
I read an article yesterday that said the Santa Fe school shooting is the deadliest school shooting since Parkland, Florida in February.
Stop and read that again.
It didn’t say “In the last twenty years.” It didn’t even say “In the last year.” No, the Santa Fe school shooting is the deadliest school shooting since February. It’s fucking May.
After the Parkland, Florida shooting I racked my brains trying to think of a way I could protect my children in the event of a school shooting, because let’s face it, we’ve reached a point where the possibility is no longer “if” – it’s “when.” I saw a post on Facebook that looked interesting. It said someone gave their children door stoppers to shove under the door in case someone with a gun tried to break into their classroom.
I thought, “Hey, that’s not a bad idea!”
It wasn’t until I held the brown rubber wedge in my hand that I realized how ridiculous it was. I mean, I was fighting bullets with a door stopper and I had no better options.
So what do we do? What do we say? How do we make it stop?
Fuck, I don’t know either.
Maybe the protests and walk outs will work. Maybe gun control will work. Maybe arming teachers will work. Maybe more discipline at home will work. Maybe mental health services and stopping bullying and loving thy neighbor will work.
Maybe my door stopper will work.
At the end of the day I did what I could. I went home, hugged my babies and told them I loved them. What else is there?
ps. Comments are open, but if you’re an asshole I’ll delete you.