Dear Mr. President,

The only America I know is post-9/11. Was that too blunt? I’m really not sure how to start this because finding these words seem so incredibly complex. But, I am a 19-year-old from New Jersey, born almost three years before the attacks in New York City, under an hour from my home.

I know you might be thinking what does this have to do with anything, but it’s more important than you could ever imagine.

For myself and my fellow Gen Zs, a tragedy at home seems to way too familiar.

The only school we know is post-Columbine. I remember my first lockdown drill in 1st grade. My teacher read to us as my mind wondered wondering why we had to hind in the corner, away from all windows and doors, with the lights off.

I remember my mom trying to explain it to me, but she was not born in a country of fear.

I have lived through seeing articles, videos, and movies about the Boston Marathon bombings. Seen videos of people I grew up with getting thrown to the floor from bombs hidden in New York City street garbage cans. I have been alive for more mass shootings than I can even think of… Sandy Hook, Orlando, Nevada, Virginia Tech and now Parkland.

The difference between my generations and my parents is that these tragedies are not something that we are experiencing as adults. People say that America is no longer safe for children but I am forced to ask when was it safe? There has been more bombings, stabbings, and shootings then I am even aware of in my 19 years.

There are pivotal times in a nation’s history and this is our time.

So, please, do not let my children grow up in a world filled with fear. Do not let my children jump every time they hear a loud noise they don’t expect. Do not let my children be fearful every time they get on a plane or train. Do not let my children know a world of hatred and violence. Do not let my children think it is common for innocent people to die. Do not let my children grow up in an America plagued with tragedy.

It is not the time for thoughts and prayers, Mr. President. I have been thinking and praying since the day I was born.

The time for change is now. The time for love is now. The time to end violence is now. My dad has been asking me for as long as I can remember, why hate when you can love. It is time for America to know what love is and never forget the tragedies that scared us.

With love,

A terrified college freshman