A little under five years ago, my high school classroom was crouched behind a table with the lights off. We were rapidly checking twitter and the news, trying to understand what was going on.
Rumors were flying about a kid bringing a gun to Newtown high, and at first, no one was too worried. Until the truth started being reported. Until we found out that, about ten minutes away from our homes, 26 people, most of which were young children, were brutally murdered.
After a few hours of lockdown, we were let out early. There were people crying on the streets. There were more police cars than I had ever seen in our little town. The school bus was filled with whispers and wide eyes as our peers were dropped off. I got home, was embraced by my mother, and started sobbing. While I never felt personally unsafe, it was an insurmountable thing to grasp, that my local community had been devastated by something so atrocious.
That Sunday at church, I had never seen the worship hall so full. Strangers were hugging each other, we were all grasping hands, and there were sobs let out that couldn’t be suppressed. As a fourteen year old who had never experienced a tragedy like this - I often felt numb. I didn’t know how to process it.
I thought about it every single day for the next few years. My friend’s little sister was a third grader at Sandy Hook, and as I became closer to her, my sorrow deepened. Like many of the other survivors, she had nightmares often, she was terrified of loud noises - and she was one of the lucky ones.
Everywhere I went, there was evidence of what happened. Almost every car had a green ribbon on it. Whenever I drove past the firehouse where the parents collected the survivors - I thought about those who desperately searched for their kid through the crowd - only to realize that they were not there. A student teacher at my school took a leave of absence - her mother was one of those who was killed. While I was filled with a deeper love for my community, and the way we came together during this tragedy, I was also filled with so much anger.
Almost five years since Sandy Hook - another mass shooting has occurred. More than twice the amount of people were killed. More communities will be mourning. More families will be devastated. So many more people will never ever be the same. And what has our nation done? What have we done to prevent these tragedies from happening? If you haven’t been a part of a community affected by a mass shooting, I can understand why you might think that guns are not the problem. If you haven’t seen the people you grew up with sobbing with grief, you won’t get it. If you haven’t driven by the newly built elementary school and seen the intense security around it - you won’t get it. If you haven’t seen the 26 candles that everyone lights in their driveways every December, you won’t get it. If you haven’t seen the empty classroom seats of the kids whose siblings didn’t make it - you won’t get it.
Yet there is something we CAN do to help. We can push for gun control. We can resist gun culture. We can fight against terrorism (yes - white terrorism too). I don’t want to get too political here, but please. If you care more about your right to bear arms than the lives of your fellow Americans, then I suggest you reevaluate your priorities.
It can be hard to know what it’s like to experience a mass shooting so close to home. And I’m lucky - while I know of people who were murdered, no one close to me was. My loved ones are safe. The same can’t be said for everyone.
So please - give some long hard thought as to what you can do to help. And work to make change. Thank you.