Yesterday, I was talking with my boyfriend about the idea of us having kids in the future. As the conversation continued, it dawned on us that our kids will have to live through a bulletproof glass. There will be places that were important to our children that we won't be able to show them due to gun violence issues. We will live in fear of what if. What if the last time we see them is when we drop them off at school or they get off the bus? What if we have to bury our child because someone else decided to take young soul too soon?
The Sandy Hook Elementary School ShootingOn December 14, 2012, a 20-year-old man named Adam Lanza went into Sandy Hook Elementary School and fatally shot 20 children between six and seven years old, as well as six adult staff members. This incident was the deadliest mass shooting at a high school or grade school in U.S. history. After Lanza heinous crime, the nation contemplated what the reasoning behind his actions. Still to this day, there has been no concrete cause for actions. However, A report by the Office of the Child Advocate said that Lanza had Asperger's syndrome and suffered from depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, but came to the conclusion that "neither caused or led to his murderous acts." The report went on by saying, "his severe and deteriorating internalized mental health problems...combined with an [abnormal fixation] with violence...(and) access to deadly weapons...proved a recipe for mass murder." Although the shooting occurred in the town of Newton, Connecticut, the loss was felt by the entire nation and even rippled into the hearts of the staff members in my high school.
Although it was almost six years ago, this tragedy will forever be felt by the families of those who were affected that day. Mothers and fathers will no longer get to tell their kid they love them; grandmothers and grandfathers will no longer get to send birthday cards to their grandkid; spouses will no longer get to kiss their loved one; brothers and sisters will no longer get to play with their sibling; boys and girls will no longer get to make memories with their best friend; teachers will no longer see the child's smile; and staff members will no longer get to talk about their day with their coworker. Every one of them had friends, family members, loved ones, and a life. While their future was stolen that day, their memory will continue to live on in those who remember them
The Ripple Effect
The Monday following the shooting, my high school did a school shooting drill. They didn't tell us why we were doing it, but we knew it was because of the Sandy Hook Shooting. Even in my small town in Mississippi, we felt the effects of it. We were over nineteen hours away from where the incident happened, but we still did the drill. In all my years, we have never done one. This day is forever burned in my brain because it was the first time I really felt afraid to go to school. I had always felt safe in my small town, but that day I felt the nightmare of a school shooting slowly become a reality. However, the whole day was not in vain. It took a turn when I went into Miss McGee's (Now Mrs. Jefcoats) class.
Our Own Victoria Soto
I had been there since K-5. I knew most of the teachers but not her. It was her first year as a teacher, and from day one I knew she'd be a great teacher. On December 17, she only confirmed my first impression of her. No teacher had even mentioned the shooting, but she did. She made the hard decision to discuss it. She asked us if we had heard on the news about the Sandy Hook school shooting. A somber silence fell over the whole room as a few of us raised our hands. She sighed and gave those of us who didn't know a little glimpse of what happened. She also told us of a woman named Victoria Soto who died because she risked her life to save her 1st-grade students. After, she made a promise to us that day. If anything like what happened at Newton, Connecticut happened at our school, she would do the same. She would protect us first. This woman barely could remember all our names but was willing to give her life for ours. Nowhere in the contract of being a teacher does it say give your life for your students, but she was willing. Even now, I remember that day in that cramped classroom giving a warming comfort even in the midst of the terrible storm raging through our nation. To me, she is still one of the most memorable teachers to this day because of that promise she made us.
Why the Promise?
I was able to talk with Mrs. Jefcoats this previous week, and I asked her why she made that promise to us. She told me that when she became a teacher she was prepared to take on the responsibilities of being our protector. She mentioned that, "If you've been in my class for more than a day, you're not my student anymore. You're my kid." During the four years of her being a teacher, she treated me and many others like her own. She had a front row seat to watching us grow up. She loved and disciplined us just like a mom would to their kid. Even though we only had an hour and a half with her a day, she always wanted us to know that she had our back even if it meant losing her life. Thank you for being willing to be our Victoria Soto.
What Do We Do Now?
School shootings are preventable. These kids and staff could've been saved. Their lives didn't have to end that day. How though? We as a nation need to be aware of the signs of a potential school shooter and take action. School shooters typically struggle with alienation, mental health, or violent tendencies. If others would open their eyes and see these as issues, we could help put a stop to school shootings altogether.
A Mother's Heartbreak (For the Children of Sandy Hook)
They were angels born, they're angels stilled,
Grabbed from those who grieve on.
Robbed of lives to be filled.
Tragedy left us chilled.
Captured cruelly in their dawn,
Deprived their time to grow,
Here so briefly, now they're gone.
Left us mourning down below.
Angels born, angels stilled. As Angels they live on.
Source: unknown author