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More Than Thoughts and Prayers

Is it ever going to change?

I had a lot to say after Columbine, one year out of high school and knowing immediately, watching the footage live in my dorm room, how much life was about to change for my younger friends.

I had a lot to say after the shooting at Virginia Tech. Then the one at the movie theater in Colorado, when my younger daughter was not even 2 months old. The one at Pulse. At the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. At Tree of Life synagogue. At the Walmart in El Paso. At Parkland. At the music festival in Vegas. At the supermarket in Buffalo, just a couple of weeks ago. So many innocent people, killed in the course of worship or grocery shopping or going to school. 

I definitely had a lot to say after Sandy Hook. And of course, I have a lot to say about the most recent school shooting in Uvalde.

Last week, in a fit of rage and pain and frustration, I wrote this on Facebook:

“Georgia wasn’t even a year old when Sandy Hook happened. Ruby was days away from turning 6, the same age as so many of those precious babies killed that horrible day. Now Georgia is just days away from turning 10, the same age as so many of those precious babies killed that horrible day.

“‘This is like her Sandy Hook,’ said Ruby, because that’s a normal thing that American children can say.

“‘Don’t worry, Mom — I won’t get shot,’ said Georgia, because that’s a normal thing that American children can say, even though it’s not always true. ‘And if I do get shot,’ she added sweetly, ‘just know it’s because I was trying to fight for my classmates.’

“You see, they taught her that. Both of my children — ages 15 and almost 10 — have never known school without lockdowns and active shooter drills. Georgia knew ‘run – hide – fight’ before she could hold a pencil or tie her shoes. They taught her ‘fight’ was an option when she was 4 years old and 37 pounds. As though anyone stands a chance against an AR-15 with high-capacity magazines, let alone a 37-pound child.

“I work at a high school. We have plans for several different active shooter scenarios. It always makes my stomach hurt when we do the drills. But it’s never scared me more than this past year, when my older kid, who attends the high school where I work, actually told me, after the Oxford High School shooting in November, ‘Mom, promise me you won’t come looking for me if there’s an active shooter. And I promise I won’t come looking for you. We will just have to stay where we are and hope we will be OK.’ Because that’s a normal thing that American children can say.

“I don’t have an answer, obviously, and I’m not going to pretend there is a simple way to fix this. But this isn’t working. How can we keep watching this happen? Sandy Hook didn’t spark any major changes; I have no hope this latest atrocity will either.

“But I’m not yet so numb that I can just shrug my shoulders as if there truly is NOTHING we can do. And it’s not more active shooter drills with toddlers, I know that much.”

The truth is, it almost starts to feel like a heartbreaking version of Mad Libs, where all that changes is the location and the number of people killed. Or like The Onion posting and reposting and reposting the same “‘No Way to Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens” article. 

I know it isn’t just guns. I also know it isn’t just mental health. I know nothing will solve it immediately or entirely, but I also know that “thoughts and prayers” aren’t doing much either. 

And I’m getting tired of having so much to say about it … and so often. 

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