On Valentine's Day, a 19-year-old entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and killed 17 students and teachers with a semi-automatic assault rifle. Public outcry for the banning of assault rifles from survivors, politicians, and Americans across the country has followed. The nation, it seems, is at a breaking point when it comes to gun violence; we cannot allow this to continue. In the meantime, life goes on and schools remain in session. Essentially, teachers and students are forced to wake up every day and go to school, wondering if their school will be the next target for a mass shooting. And these students' reactions to a fire drill is a heartbreaking reminder of ongoing gun violence fears.
In a now-viral Facebook post, a teacher named Lacey Garner wrote about what she experienced during a recent fire drill. "Today, the fire alarm went off in our school. It was not a drill. It was not planned. Our first thought wasn’t to exit the building, but to wonder if this was the start to a very dark afternoon," Garner wrote on Feb. 21 — just one week after the Parkland shooting. "For 30-60 seconds after the alarm started, the hallways were dead. Not one teacher instantly thought to abide by ‘fire drill’ procedures."
If you think about it, these students have every reason to be skeptical about an unannounced fire drill. Because before the gunman hunted down innocent victims in the Parkland shooting, he allegedly pulled the fire alarm, Time reported, sending teachers and students right toward him. Apparently, this was exactly what students at Garner's school were thinking about when the fire alarm went off on Feb. 21. "I had high school students begging me not to take them outside because 'what if it was a setup for a shooting?' Garner wrote. She continued:
Sixteen year old students began to tear up as I told them we were going to leave the class and walk outside. “I don’t want to die.” I held hands of students and held them behind me as we walked out of the school, all the while repeating in my head, “please don’t let this be it...please don’t let this be it.” Aloud, I promised kids they were going to be okay.
Garner went on to explain that the fire alarm ended up going off a second time as teachers and student were re-entering the building. Again, students feared the worst — with some running toward classrooms and other running toward doors. It turns out, the cause of "unannounced fire drill" was merely dust inside a smoke alarm in the gym. "This is the climate in schools around the country right now," Garner pointed out. It’s not okay. Kids are scared. Teachers are scared. We are doing our best." She continued:
Every teacher I know would die trying to save your children. But we could use some help. If we are willing to give our life, could you give us your voice? Demand change. Fix this sh*t.
A. Freaking. Men.
I think Parkland school shooting survivor David Hogg said it best when it comes to addressing the topic of the clear gun safety problem we have here, in the U.S. "I'm not trying to push a liberal agenda, here; I'm not trying to push a conservative agenda. I'm trying to push an agenda that saves our children and saves our future," Hogg told MSNBC. "That's what I'm trying to do, here. I don't want to have a debate as a Republican or a Democrat. None of us should." He continued:
We should all have a discussion and realize what we want here is to save children's lives. How that is done is up to the politicians, but we should absolutely continue to take action. Because we've seen some promises. But those promises turn into lies. And blood is spattered across the walls of our classrooms as a result.
No child should have to go to school fearing for their lives. No teacher should have to wonder if they'll come home to their family — or if they'll die trying to save the lives of students during a mass shooting. And no parent should have to worry every single day at school drop-off if it will be the last time they kiss their child goodbye. Banning assault rifles is the logical next step — the only acceptable solution, really. On March 24, I encourage you to find a nearby March for Our Lives event and let your voice be heard. Because our kids' lives depend on it.