My students seemed oblivious to the carnage their peers in Florida faced yesterday. Until we had “the talk.” Where would we hide in my classroom in the event of an active shooter situation? What can we do to protect ourselves? We then proceeded with our scheduled shelter in place drill–one that had been planned since the beginning of the school year, a shelter drill in the event of a toxic release from the neighboring oil refinery (yes, my school is virtually next door to the refinery that exploded three years ago this week–hence the date of the drill).
As more information about the school shooting in Florida trickled out throughout the day today, I became increasingly hopeful that as a nation we may have hit what Malcolm Gladwell describes as “the tipping point.” Today I read an article on Huffington Post attempting to move us beyond the desensitizing numbers in a mass murder by reporting the autopsies of the Vegas shooting victims, by presenting the information as “…a rare opportunity to honestly confront the graphic reality of a mass shooting.” Today marks the one year anniversary of POTUS45 signing a bill making it easier for some with mental health issues to purchase guns, what the White House considered an early legislative success story–yet today, White House Press Office refused to release a picture of the signing and only issued a one-line response to news organizations. And after the president’s victim blaming twitter session in the early hours this morning, this omission from the press office is even more egregious. His tweet read: “So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!” He failed to note that the shooter was on the FBI’s radar and that in this country we can’t arrest someone for something they didn’t do–but he may have prevented the sale of the AR-15 to this teenager if he hadn’t rolled back that Obama-era gun law. And people noticed this failure in moral leadership and failure to acknowledge that the White House’s policies on guns contribute to the problem.
When I watched the angry, desperate pleas of Lori Alhadeff, whose 14-year-old daughter died in yesterday’s mass shooting, it was all I could do to remain composed. I keep thinking, “When will it happen here?” Not “if.” Alhadeff implored, “President Trump, you say what can you do? You can stop the guns from getting into these children’s hands. What can you do? You can do a lot! This is not fair to our families and our children [to] go to school and have to get killed!”
The students at Stoneman Douglas High School have offered the most poignant, yet strongest words of reason. One Stoneman student named Carly replied to right-wing commentator Tomi Lahren’s tone-deaf tweet: “I was hiding in a closet for 2 hours. It was about guns. You weren’t there, you don’t know how it felt. Guns give these disgusting people the ability to kill other human beings. This IS about guns and this is about all the people who had their life (sic) abruptly ended because of guns.”
These students give me hope for our future, as they are a shining example to my students of the power of that their words and actions can have. And I can only hope that these students have the wisdom to push us beyond the tipping point into a new world.
“The Show Must Go On” by Queen
“…My soul is painted like the wings of butterflies
Fairy tales of yesterday, grow but never die
I can fly, my friends…”