It feels strangely coincidental that I’ve won the Listserve this week. I know that the news has shown nothing but gun control debates for the last few days, and I’m sorry if this feels redundant. I would like to share my story with you because it has never been more important for us to speak out and understand each other.
On the Friday right before finals week during my senior year of high school, a student walked into my school with a shotgun, a machete, and various other weapons. He shot one student, a girl, who was sitting in the hallway. She would later die from her wounds. The shooter ran into the library, where he took his own life. The attack lasted 80 seconds.
I wasn’t at school during the shooting. I usually went to the library to study, but I’d forgotten my lunch on the counter at home, so I left for a quick meal (isn’t life wild?). Halfway through a bowl of soup, I got a call from a friend who said his younger brother was locked down because of an active shooter. At that moment, I looked outside and saw the S.W.A.T. vans and police cars screaming down the road. I called my mom, who calmly told me to drive back to our house. I don’t think I registered emotion until I arrived, and my dad was on the front step, tears in his eyes. He pulled me into a hug, and we cried together.
I think back on this chain of events and it still feels surreal, like I imagined it. My entire senior year divides into pre- and post- shooting. Very few teenagers know real loss, especially in a quiet suburb. We all lost our trust, our innocence, in those 80 seconds.
I know that my story isn’t entirely unique. I read somewhere recently that 150,000 people have now experienced a school shooting. Every time a shooting happens, my thoughts go to the survivors. They won’t be okay for a long time. Certain things still throw me into a tailspin four years after the fact. It’s a slow, slow process.
Regardless of your stance on guns, and whether you have one and use it responsibly or not, I would like to tell you this: the shooter at my school had been assessed at high threat levels on multiple occasions, and he was still able to walk into a Cabela’s and buy a gun that took a life. One background check could have changed so much. But that didn’t happen. Our shooting didn’t do much in terms of gun control, but the students at Stoneman Douglas High School are refusing to let that happen. To those calling them children, I would reply that they have been through much more than the average adult. The safety of America’s youth should not be a partisan issue.
A few weeks after the shooting, the father of the girl that passed away spoke to our school. His speech ended with this statement: “Choose, every day, consciously and deliberately, to love.”
Thank you for reading.