By Elizabeth Odell, TIWP Student
The alarm rings out over the loud speaker and we shuffle into our positions. The blinds are drawn and the door is locked. Kids crouch beneath desk and tables, eyes fixed on each other and the door and our teacher. And I wonder when this became so normal. I wonder when I stopped worrying about tests and homework and started worrying about watching my classmates die in front of me. I wonder when I started trusting my teacher with my life—and I wonder when I stopped having a choice in the matter. I wonder when we became so desensitized that we act as though this is just a part of life. Above all, I wonder when we decided that children were acceptable casualties. When we started to place guns at higher priority than the children shot down in their classes.
“Oh but if we take away guns, they’ll just find another way”. Then I say, let them. Let them try to kill two dozen people with a knife. Let them try throwing stones. Let them pull out bows and arrows. Let mass murderers get creative because I’m tired of it being so easy for them. I’m tired of five year olds having to learn how to hide under tables when the only thing they should be worrying about is which color crayon they want to use next. I’m tired of watching the blood drain from my classmates face even as they laugh and nudge each other, trying to act as unaffected as they wish they were. I’m tired of continuing my life as though nothing has happened because they’re not my classmates. They’re not my siblings and children and lovers and friends. They’re not my community. But I wonder what will happen when someday they are. When the shootings don’t stay in Florida and Georgia and New York.
I wonder what will happen when the gun shots ring out in my community. Will the silence finally end? Will the people saying, “guns don’t kill, people do” continue that mantra when it’s their child bleeding on the classroom floor? How much longer are we going to pretend nothing is happening? Like everything is under control. That this is America and we are the greatest country. That nothing needs to change. Because the truth is, I do believe that we are a great country but we are not the greatest country in health care. Or in families or in civil rights. We are not the best or the most in anything that matters. But we do have the most mass shootings by over two hundred. So I guess that’s something. I guess that’s who we are. I guess we stand for silence and fear and the loss of innocence. I guess that’s all we’ll ever be. But it’s not our fault. After all, guns don’t kill, people do. So there’s nothing our country can do… right?
I watch as people post their prayers and thoughts on social media and I watch the news anchors report the death toll in the same voice that they report the weather. I watch as the dead children’s faces are buried beneath tweets and statistics and the opinions of people who don’t matter.
I wonder when the next time the news flashes with the faces of children whose lives should have just gotten started will be. Because I know it will come. I wonder where it will be. I wonder if they’ll be 5 or 12 or 17. I wonder if their parents will stand in front of the cameras wondering desperately if they remembered to tell their baby that they loved them that morning. I wonder if they will be sisters and brothers and friends and children and innocent and lost and deserving of so much more than they got. And sometimes, when it’s late at night and my thoughts get the best of me, I wonder if it might be my friends. My classmates. My family. My school. I wonder if one of their faces might be my own. I wonder, if it was my face, or my best friends, or the face of the boy that sits behind me in English or the girl who I’ve known for 12 years but never really talked to. I wonder, if it was us—if maybe, just maybe, people might finally start to care. But I doubt it. After all, people outside of my community don’t know who I am. I am not their daughter or classmate or friend. I am not part of their family or their town. They don’t know me just as I didn’t know them. My face and my best friend’s face and the face of the boy who sits behind me in English and the girl who I’ve known for 12 years but never really talked to will be buried beneath statistics and prayers and the opinions of people who don’t matter. We will become yet another statistic. And the world will keep spinning and the sun will still rise in the east and set in the west and people will keep buying guns and children will keep dying and it will all be for nothing. I guess I just wish that people didn’t only mourn the loss of the children they know. I wish that we could acknowledge that they are part of our country. Part of our greater community. Part of our family. They were ours to protect and we failed them. So I guess what I’m trying to say is… please, don’t let us fail anyone else.