A student was shot at my daughter’s school when she was a freshman. It took place between classes and my daughter was close enough to hear the gunshots and to be trampled by students running and screaming.
The panic. The lockdown. The search.
Armed police officers went room-to-room with loaded guns pointed towards students. My daughter’s teacher allowed kids to text their parents they were safe. I was grateful. I texted back, “Stay alert. Listen to authorities. I love you.”
My daughter was evacuated with her classmates. Hands folded on top of her head. A posture we’re all too familiar seeing on the news as students walk single file to a designated safe place.
In the end, one kid had been shot – twice. No one was killed. It was not a mass shooting, yet everyone was traumatized.
Then came the news reporters – leaning into parents’ car windows like prostitutes. They wanted interviews. We wanted to pick up our kids from school and go home. We wanted peace. Normalcy.
Gun violence is a common occurrence in our country now and I fear our kids will have to be the ones to figure out what to do about it. They will have to because we – the grownups – can’t stop fighting about it. We can’t stop feeling that our constitutional rights are being threatened. We can’t stop poo-pooing one another’s ideas towards solutions and we can’t stop and listen to our children when they need us.
We, the supposed responsible grownups, remember teenage years to be about dating and planning for college and borrowing the family car on Friday night. To act out meant to take the car without asking – not the guns. We sneaked out after Mom and Dad went to bed or smoked pot with our friends in the woods. Today, adolescence looks different. Today’s teenage reality includes gunmen and lockdowns and PTSD.
It seems our kids can no longer rely on parents and grandparents to provide solutions. Yes, we have special interest groups that have been born from the pain of losing children to massacre – like the community surrounding Sandy Hook. But these grownups who are fighting for our children are met by fierce opposition with deep pockets. Meanwhile, the rest of us take to Social Media to post memes and argue whether or not teachers should be armed (please, no) or whether or not insuring and licensing guns like motorized vehicles makes sense (I think it does). None of these unfocused opinions accomplish anything and I am exhausted by them. My greatest power against gun violence is to vote for a candidate who will do right by my children (and, I will).
My generation and my parents’ generation like to mock millennials. The millennials we’ve raised. But it is the millennials and Generation Z kids who are left standing after this horrific era of gun slaughter who will have to create a safer future for the rest of us. We, the grownups, have failed to listen to their grievances. Our system has failed to support their needs and my parents’ generation has disregarded millennials as being too naive, too young to know anything, and too wrapped up in their own “teenage drama” to be worth a damn. But I raised good kids and they are not the only good ones. The next generation will do more with better resources than we ever even imagined.
We have wrapped them in this new reality filled with gunfire. And now, they are charged with the task of saving us all.