Every time there is another school shooting, my heart constricts and my head spins. Not again. Not again. But it's happened. It's happened again. It happens over and over. It happens so often that the shock has worn off. It happened today, Wednesday, September 28. There was a school shooting at Townville Elementary School. When the news hits my Facebook or my Twitter or my television, I no longer audibly gasp. I no longer grab all my children and imagine my life if it was them, crying and holding them too tightly all day and all night, for days on end. Or at least I try not to. Because the anxiety — the horror — it’s too much to bear with such intensity when news that yet another school shooting has taken place hits the airwaves day after day after day.
Don’t ask me how I feel about school shootings. Don't ask me what's going through my head. Don't ask me what I think. Or what I would say to the parents who are living through their worst nightmare right now. Don't ask me where I think we should go from here. Just please, don't ask me. My words are tired. My heart is weary. I cannot keep shouting these words again and again while no one listens. I want to keep fighting this good fight, but how? The evil is so evasive. The wreckage is everywhere, and the monster has already slithered into the shadows, protected and nourished by those who turn a blind eye to dead children and the need for greater gun control in America.
I used to write letters to bureaucrats, but I don’t anymore. My heartfelt words were met with recycled cookie-cutter responses designed to placate me. In all the years I sent them, there was never any action mentioned, never any action required. Somewhere my words lie in a garbage can, mingling with the words and tears of other mothers and fathers and citizens. Should I write them again? Print out my own cookie-cutter response to this same tragedy, and send it into the world for some intern to read, reply, discard? Should I tell them how my heart seizes when the words "school shooting" flash across the ticker on the bottom of my TV?
Do you want to know how mothers feel about school shootings? The same as we did last time this happened, and the time before that, and the time before that.
Every time this happens, speaking up makes me feel a little more hopeless than I did before. Are my words worth anything? Does anyone care how mothers feel? Is anyone listening? Can anyone hear me?
Do you want to know how mothers feel about school shootings? The same as we did last time this happened, and the time before that, and the time before that. Women raising children, literally shaping the future of our world, are accustomed to saying the same thing over and over while our words fall on deaf ears. But it’s tiring and frustrating when the end result is a room full of dead children and not a few errant toys on the ground. So however we felt the last time we roared with passion, we feel that same way now. Only now we are tired. So damn tired. Maybe we’re too tired to yell one more time. God knows I am.
We call them “lockdown drills,” but really, we know what they are. We are readying our children for the day someone comes into their school and threatens to take their lives. We make it a priority to each our kids to be ready for death, yet we can't pass common sense gun violence reform in our country. So how on earth do you think I feel?
So don’t ask me how I feel about school shootings. I’ve said it all already. I have called my representative. I have advocated for change. So have so many others mothers. Our preschoolers now hide in closets, as silently as they are capable, waiting for death. We ask children to rehearse for school shootings, much like fire drills and emergencies, and we prep and prepare kids for what might happen when a shooter undoubtedly stalks the halls. We call them “lockdown drills,” but really, we know what they are. We are readying our children for the day someone comes into their school and threatens to take their lives. We make it a priority to teach our kids to be ready for death, yet we can't pass common sense gun violence reform in our country. So how on earth do you think I feel?
I feel what every single mother feels today. I feel terrified and heartbroken and hopeless and determined and outraged and furious and lucky and guilty and anxious. I bounce from one horrible emotion to the next, wondering how to make it stop. My mind. These shootings. I’m grasping desperately for control.
So I do the only thing I know how to do. I craft collections of words, and hope somehow it will make a difference. And I wonder how many more times I will do this, because I know this will not be the last time. How long will we continue to ask mothers to weigh in on the tragedy of these shootings, even though we’ve shared our heartache time and time again? We keep sharing our thoughts and opinions and solutions, but to no avail. We make our voices heard, but still it seems no one is listening. What are these words worth without the payoff of change?
How long should I scream into the abyss, hoping to at least hear an echo?