I do not want to write this letter. But as a parent, I do a LOT of things I don’t want to do. I don’t want to talk to you about this just like I didn’t want to talk to you about sex. Because, I want you to be able to remain innocent. I don’t want you to have to know about grown-up things. I wish you did not have to know what kind of world you live in.
But, yesterday there was another school shooting. A 15-year-old boy walked into his school and killed two of his classmates with a gun. He tried to kill many more. You go to school. You have lockdown drills. And though it is unimaginable to me that you may one day face a school shooting, I realize that I would not do you ANY favors to keep silent about that possibility.
Screenshot: CBS News/YouTube
The first school shooting I can really recall is the one at Columbine High School in Colorado, in 1999. It was AWFUL and SHOCKING. (I also vaguely remember a smaller one in 1998, that I paid little attention to.) I was in college, out of high school for nearly three years already. That’s right, the WHOLE time I was in elementary and high school, I don’t remember ONE single school shooting occurring. The whole time YOU kids have been in school (none of you even in high school yet!), there have been several EACH YEAR.
There have been many days since you kids have been in school, that I have been terrified to send you off to school because of a recent school shooting. Today is one of those days. Another such day was December 15, 2012, the day after the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty — TWENTY — first graders and six educators lost their lives that day. I had a kindergartener at the time, you, Sophie, 6 years old, the same age as many of those killed. Your classroom was way back in the building, so far from the door, which relieved me some. I was more terrified to send you off that day, though, Joshua, because you were in 3rd grade and your classroom was IMMEDIATELY inside the school doors. First one anyone could access. I spent the next few school days in anxiety until I could pick you up. I knew that the first graders in Newtown lost their lives because their classrooms were the first ones the shooter could get to.
(Have you ever wondered why your school no longer uses your 3rd grade classroom as a classroom, Joshua? That is why, The Sandy Hook school shooting is exactly why.)
So, anyway. Maybe now you know why I worry so much. Why I freak a little at the park when I can’t see where you’re playing. As a parent, I deal with more scary situations than my own parents ever faced. In the almost 22 years since I’ve left high school, it seems we’ve had five centuries worth of evil creep in to our world.
Here’s what I want you to know if a school shooting ever happens at your school:
First, if you are in a classroom with your teacher, follow his or her instructions immediately. Don’t THINK, just do. Train yourself to ACT QUICKLY when your teacher is commanding you. They have been trained for these situations and their instructions are your first line of defense.
Secondly, if you are not in a classroom, get somewhere where you can HIDE and lock the door. Janitor’s closet, teacher’s bathroom with a door that locks (I know your school has those out in the hallway), an open classroom. THINK about your school and THINK about where you might go. PLAN AHEAD so you don’t have to decide in the moment. Once you get somewhere safe, do not make a sound or open the door unless it is for the police.
Lastly, remember that God is with you. The reason I can still send you off to school bravely the day after a school shooting even though my heart hurts, and beats faster, is because I KNOW God is with you. I know I have a God who created you and loves you EVEN MORE THAN I DO. I know I can trust Him with your lives. Because you are precious in His sight, even and especially when you are out of mine. Yes, bad things DO happen to good people, but God is there in the bad things, too. Cling to Him, and I will, too – no matter what happens.
My darlings, it is okay to be afraid, but I do NOT want you to live in fear. The Bible tells us not to be anxious, but when we are, then to PRAY about everything. Take your fears to God, and lay them at His feet. Talk to ME about it, I won’t change the subject. We live in a world that has lots of scary things in it — and as your mom, it is my privilege to help you face them, and to face them with you. Even though this is hard, even though I want you to be little and innocent, God gives me the strength to do so.
Finally, my little loves, I want you to change the world, one person at a time. To your classmates, especially that one who seems to need it — show love and kindness. Treat others as you would want to be treated. People who go to school and shoot others usually come from a home or school life where they have not received much love and kindness. It is not an excuse for what they do, but I tell you this so that you can know that the love and kindness of just ONE person to someone who REALLY needs it can stop a tragedy. I believe that with all my heart.
I love you three, so much. And now you know why, the day after a school shooting, I said it more than once before you walked out the door this morning.