This weekend marked another important anniversary in my life- the twentieth anniversary of the shooting at Simon's Rock. Twenty years ago, December 14, 1992, a student named Wayne Lo got a gun and shot his way across campus, killing two people, injuring many others, and changing my life forever. On that same day this year, Adam Lanza got a gun and killed 28 people, most of them children, in a school.
I can barely process the first, much less the second.
I'm a teacher now, and an administrator. This week has been hell. I have been swinging back and forth between my own emotional reaction to the Simon's Rock shooting- still dealing with that one, and my anger and sadness at the Sandy Hook shooting. Also, my feeling of powerlessness.
A group of alumni from SR got together and wrote a Strongly Worded Letter. It isn't much, but it is something. I spoke with a reporter from the New Yorker this week about the letter and realized that only two or three people know my story, my experience of the shooting. The reporter asked about my emotional reaction to the 1992 event, and again about my reaction to the more recent tragedy. I found myself answering truthfully: my compassion is for the survivors, the ones that will be dealing with this event for the rest of their lives, just like I do. Who will help them when they discover PTSD symptoms? (Who helped me when I couldn't perform my job because it was shooting a gun loaded with blanks and I would black out?)
The reporter wanted me to take a stance on banning guns (I have one, but I wasn't willing to articulate it in that context), to have an opinion on what President Obama said. My reply was this: We need to start a national conversation about violence, and what kind of violence we will tolerate. The issue isn't just about guns or access to mental health care, although those are both huge issues. Violence in our society is the issue, and we need to address that head on before we can move on to other things. Conversations start small, so let's start having them.
My heart goes out to every parent who wants more security at schools, who is willing to make schools feel like prisons in exchange for a false sense of security because they are scared. My heart goes out to the children and families of the victims, and the ones who no one is going to check in with- the fifth grader who is new to the school, the janitor who probably doesn't speak a great deal of english. Who will listen to them and help them heal?