Luck. What else can you call it? What else could it be but luck that day that I survived the LCO school shooting yet twenty children did not survive the Sandy Hook shooting? I, who have lived years beyond their own young lives. Lives that are now shortened with futures unfulfilled. It must be luck.
It’s what I think now as I get messages from people telling me that they are thinking about me. It’s difficult not to imagine how things could have turned out so very differently three and half years ago when you see the worse case scenario splashed across every news station. I can’t help but think that I survived for some reason. A reason that I may run out of time to fulfill. As if it will be taken away if I don’t use it the right way. Survivor’s guilt, I suppose. But how else do you explain the lives of twenty beautiful, innocent children being taken, but not my own.
Ashamed. As I watched my social media feed fill up Friday with debates on everything from gun control to God in our schools, this is what I felt as the shooting played out on television. On the very same day of a terrible tragedy, political rants began. A day when the only thought that should have occurred was mourning for the loss of the innocent lives to the evilness that lived in the heart of one individual. Instead of an outpouring of support for the victims, my social media “friends” argued over whether or not if teachers were armed, would the deaths have been prevented.
No one backing down from his or her point of view, of course. No listening to each other. Just the refusal to give up or give in.
Truth. When bad things happen, we search for reasons why. Our hearts and minds need a reason as comfort. Each person finds their reason based on what they perceive to be wrong in the world. I tell myself that everything happens for a reason, but even I have difficulty finding reason in the death of all those innocent children.
When tragedies such as this occur, we look to blame someone or something. But the issues around incidents like this are polarizing. Everyone refusing to budge. Gun activists cite the second amendment and those for gun control cite incidents like these to support stricter control. Both having valid arguments, but arguments that are also flawed. The constitution hasn’t always been right. If it was, only white men would still be able to vote. The writers of our constitution could not fathom guns being used to commit mass murder of innocent children. But then again, if gun laws are stricter does that mean they aren’t available? Of course not. Drugs are illegal, but people still use them. Making something illegal doesn’t make it go away. It makes it more valuable.
And then there is the God argument. The argument being that God is not in our public schools. But isn’t He? My students say the pledge each morning: “One nation under God.” They have the opportunity to pray at weekly BASIC meetings. They carry their faith with them wherever they go in our school. It doesn’t leave them as they enter our halls to be picked up when they exit the building. It is part of who they are. Do we teach religion? No. But isn’t it also our constitutional right to have freedom of religion? The freedom to practice whatever religion we please and not be forced to learn about whatever the dominant religion is? It doesn’t mean that the students’ beliefs aren’t acknowledged or present when they are in the halls and classrooms of our school.
I’ve seen many of my social media “friends” contradict themselves by claiming it’s their constitutional right to have firearms, and then claim that what we need in schools is God. These are both constitutional rights. Who gets to decide which one of our constitutional rights is more important?
Guilt. This is what we should feel. Because of our polarity, our unwilling to cross the divide of our own opinions, nothing changes and more incidents continue to happen.
What changed after the LCO school shooting? Only the locks of all our classroom doors. They automatically lock now. But teachers and students become frustrated waiting for them to be opened, so they leave cracks in them. Cracks where bad things can get in.
Because time passes and people forget why that little detail of an open door matters.
It’s easy for some, I imagine. For our mental health, we wrap ourselves in a bubble and convince ourselves that tragedy only occurs elsewhere. Until incidents like Sandy Hook happen and we are confronted by the reality that violence can happen to anyone. But then the same media we blame for publicizing it stops covering the tragedy, and we let it go. It becomes a reference and a statistic. Something too difficult to believe possible again.
Hope. Personally, I don’t blame the gun that fired at me or a school that doesn’t teach religion or the fact that my door didn’t lock. I don’t blame the media or video games or bullying.
It comes down to a person who made a choice. In each of us there is good and evil. We are all capable of so much more than we believe possible, in good ways and in ways that are terrible.
There is wrong in the world and none of the blame we throw around faces the fact that the terribleness does exist inside of people. And the solution to that does not fall under our constitution or in our social media debates or any of the other places that we seek to blame and divide ourselves. It falls under our ability to love and reach out to one another. Hostility and hate and denial will not deliver the changes our schools or even the world need.
But I hope that what is clear to us is that the tragedies will not go away unless we do things differently. There is a of favorite quote of mine that says that if you always do what you’ve always done, than you will always get what you have always gotten.
We can’t afford to keep doing the same things. What’s at stake, the lives of our children, is too high.