Anger. Frustration. Heartbreak. Sorrow. Darkness. Confusion. Faith.
Those are the emotions that I have associated with the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that took place on Wednesday, February 14.
I've felt complete anger for the situation itself and how the government has handled it. For me, it almost seems unfathomable that another shooting that resulted so catastrophically could occur after the attack that took place at Sandy Hook. I really thought something would change when innocent 5-year-olds died, but nothing did. Nothing has. And I fear nothing will.
The frustration that boils inside of me keeps me up at night as I contemplate the selfishness of those who believe their right to bear arms outweighs student rights to attend school in the absence of fear regarding death. It's not even so much just schools – everywhere I go I immediately scan the perimeters for an escape route or method of protection. Will I run to the door 10 feet from my left? Will I flip the table I am currently typing on to use as a shield? Or do I run to the bathroom that's 15 feet to my right and lock myself in, hiding in a stall. Every time I go to a movie theater I always check my exits and methods of running for my life.
The fact that I've considered wiping someone's blood who was shot next to me and putting it on myself to play dead more than 100 times hurts me to my core. I can't walk into a place without immediately considering my best chances of survival if someone was to come in with a gun.
I wake up in the middle of the night from complete heartbreak knowing that students younger than me have lost their lives because of a senseless act and that my school could be next. My heart shatters for the families of victims who lost their lives by gun violence. They were never able to say goodbye one last tight. They couldn't hug them tight, telling that person how fiercely they loved them. They couldn't comfort them in their last moments as they laid on the cold tile of their school classroom and took their last breaths. I cry at the thought of it happening to my brother in his classroom, or it happening to my mom while she's at the grocery store, or it happening to my dad as he sits at his work cubicle tending to his job. I feel my heart completely ache because there's never a chance of knowing when or if it could happen to you.
The sorrow that immerses me knowing that there's nothing I can do to make the situation better chills my bones. No amount of money raised will bring the life of someone lost back. No amount of prayers will ever replace the feeling of agony for a family who lost their son or daughter at the hands of a shooter. No amount of apologies will ever fill the void a family will feel knowing they can't tell the person they miss how much they love them one last time.
These students should have gone to school on Valentine's Day feeling loved by everyone around them; feeling excitement for the date they may go on that night with the guy or girl they have been crushing on; feeling thankful for the flowers and chocolates their parents bought them to show them that even if they don't have a significant other, they are still adored. But instead, they felt fear by people around them as bullets flew; they felt terror as to whether they would ever make it out of their school halls one more time; they felt relief and agony simultaneously as they made it out of the building while some of their classmates didn't. Those chocolates will remain uneaten. Those flowers will now be placed at their grave. And those cards will never be read.
Darkness has cast its shadow on my life in a way I could never have expected. I realized the situation of gun control was bad, but this shooting has shook me to my core. For several days, I couldn't see the light in this world – I couldn't understand how people were still going on with their weeks as if nothing happened. Although the dark has faded, it will continue to exist.
I have felt complete confusion as to how people can see the justification in owning assault rifles even though attack after attack has taken place. I can't understand how the government sees their people dying and won't do anything about it because an amendment made in 1791 allows Americans to carry guns. I don't understand how they turn their cheek away from the parents begging for change after they bury their child towards the NRA for yet another check to clear in their account. I can't understand and I never will understand.
But one thing that I can take away from all this is that I've seen the faith humanity can carry and give one another. Not even in the sense of religion, but faith in one another. I've seen hundreds of people within a community come together holding candles and singing songs to show both support and sorrow. I've seen young voices step up to the podium calling out the government and its greed while begging for change. And personally, I've seen how a terrible event can bring people together in the sense of donation for a family in need.
This is one of those events that I will carry with me in my heart for the rest of my life. It has become a pivotal moment not only for me, but I believe for this country. It's no longer adults carrying the conversations – it's students who were in that school now demanding change. It's young adults who understand what that feeling is like and what needs to be done to secure safety in this country. And it's the adults who stand on the side of change and who want to protect their people at all costs.
As a final note, I'd like to leave part of the speech Emma Gonzalez, a senior who attended the Parkland high school, spoke at a gun control rally in Fort Lauderdale:
"They say tougher guns laws do not decrease gun violence. We call BS. They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. We call BS. They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars. We call BS. They say no laws could have prevented the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred. We call BS. That us kids don't know what we're talking about, that we're too young to understand how the government works. We call BS."