Dear Children, you aren’t safe anywhere and always expect death.
There was another mass shooting today (that I know of, they happen so often it’s getting hard to keep track).
So far, the news is reporting 14 dead and 17 more injured. The casualties keep mounting and I don’t really know how to do this anymore. I watched the news live at work as the tragedy unfolded, shocked and heartbroken that more lives were lost. I watched until it was time to leave, feeling absolutely defeated and weary of the violence.
As I closed the door and relaxed into the relative safety of my car, my eyes welled up. No hysterics. No cascade of tears. Instead I felt an overwhelming sadness and melancholy. This is our new reality. This is the world my son and daughter are coming of age in. The illusion of safety has been shattered, leaving nothing but the tattered remains of an idyllic life no longer possible.
I didn’t rush home to embrace my family. I drove listening intently to the news, waiting with baited breath for every tidbit of information, fascinated and horrified by the unfolding events. Arriving home, a dream home for us really, I sat momentarily in the driveway.
My son’s car wasn’t parked, so I knew Nicole, my daughter, was home alone. I’m incredibly proud of her not only for the young woman she is becoming, but because of her perspective on life. We can talk at length about deep topics and I can trust her to keep up. She hadn’t heard about the shooting, so we put on the news and watched together.
We rarely forget to talk to each other about our days, and despite the tragedy today was no different. I don’t usually ask about specifics, being content to trust her judgment when it comes to explaining her day.
Today was different though. “Do you have active shooter drills at school?” She looked at me puzzled by my terminology. “Lockdowns. Do you have lockdown drills?” My daughter attends a pretty small, rural school in Central Pennsylvania.
“Yeah, once a month. We all know they won’t help though. If someone comes in with a gun, all we’re doing is being grouped together in different rooms so we’re easier to kill. My teacher said she’d try to fight the person so we could run, but she’s old. I think she’d just get killed too.”
There you have it. The brutal reality of the world we live in. I wanted to write something profound and intelligent. I wanted to express solidarity and sorrow, hope for better and shock at yet another mass killing. Instead all I have is that. I leave you with nothing but the words of my daughter who, in a matter of fact tone, told me that this is just business as usual.
That’s the world we are leaving to our children ladies and gentleman. That will be our legacy. It won’t be the destruction of our climate or a technological revolution that has brought information to our fingertips. Our legacy will be thousands dead at the hands of gunmen and a society who chooses to do nothing to change the outcome.
Want me to simplify it for you? The game is almost over. We’re on our own 40 yard line, clock stopped with a second left and we’ve only got enough to run one play. We’re down by six and most of our fans have left. We can take a knee and accept defeat or play for the win. This isn’t the legacy I want to leave for the next generation. Lets finally do something to change it.
Also by Shawn Henfling
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Photo Credit: Oregon Department of Transportation/flickr