My Grownup Christmas List

April 21, 1999
“There was another school shooting yesterday. They think at least 25 students/teachers were killed. I guess that the people who did it were the ones who were always getting picked on. So I guess they sort of…snapped.”

This was written by my own childish twelve year old hand. In the spring of my sixth grade year tragedy struck our nation. Two students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, carried weapons to school and opened fire on their classmates. This was the 1999 Columbine school shooting. An incident that seemed to be the catalyst for a pattern of similar events.

Fast forward to the spring of 2007 and now I am a college sophomore sitting in my dorm room watching the news, horrified that yet another shooter- Seung Hui Cho, rained bullets down upon a university lecture hall. This time it was at Texas A&M.

Both these incidents (and many others) happened half way across the country, yet to me, and I am sure many of my peers as well, it felt like it was happening right in our own backyard. Doors that had always been open were now locked twenty-four hours a day and emergency plans immediately put into place. Now schools didn’t just practice fire and tornado drills, “lock downs” and disaster drills were now part of standard procedure. It begged the question, “If it could happen there, could it happen here?”

In the wake of yet another senseless act of violence- the murders at Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday, I can’t help but feel the same feeling of unease. What if that happened at one of my schools? To my colleagues? To the children I work with? To me? What would I do in the same situation? What would anyone do? So many questions…

I would like to think that I would do whatever it took to protect innocent life, to protect the children. They have become such an important part of my life and I care very much about all of them, (even the ones that drive me crazy sometimes) that the mere idea of someone, anyone trying to hurt them infuriates me beyond all reason. I would like to think that if, God forbid, something ever did happen and someone broke into my room, at one of my schools, and tried to hurt a child in my care, that I would fight tooth and nail until my last dying breath to keep that child safe. The truth is, however, that I just don’t know. I don’t think anyone really knows how they would react in a situation until they are faced with it. I just pray that should that day ever come that I won’t become paralyzed by fear and will be up to the task of protecting my wards.

What I do know is that many brave men and women have given the most generous gift anyone could give- their own lives, to save countless more, and yet there have still been too many deaths. At what point do we as a society say enough is enough? A lot of “solutions” have been tossed around in the last few days, everything from the need for tighter gun control to making mental health services more readily available and accessible in this county, and I believe these things should be discussed, need to be discussed, but they are, unfortunately, just a small part of a bigger problem.

Whether we would like to admit it or not we are still a primitive society. Sure, we’ve had a huge technological explosion in the last hundred years and we have made tremendous strides in various intellectual arenas, but despite all of that we remain unenlightened when it comes to the care and treatment of our fellow man. There are still people in this world living in squalor, there are still people without access to food and clean water, there are still people without access to reliable medical care, there are still people living in the streets without a roof over their head at night. How can we call ourselves advanced when we can’t even be bothered to take care of all of Earth’s inhabitants?

It’s easy to demonize the shooters, and I am not condoning their actions, but nine times out of ten these people commit horrendous acts due to a combination of mental illness and because they feel that they themselves have somehow been victimized. When we stop marginalizing and separating ourselves from others and recognize WE ARE ALL ONE PEOPLE, when we start treating every person with the dignity they deserve, when everyone can be assured that their basic human needs will be met, maybe then people will no longer feel a need to commit such incomprehensible acts of violence.

Sadly, though, I fear this will not happen during my lifetime, and even if it did it would still be too little too late for the beautiful children at Sandy Hook And the many other souls lost over the years to senseless shootings.

Christmas is less that a week away, and while I am too old to still believe in Santa Claus, I do have one wish, a Grown-up Christmas List

To all the parents who lost precious children in Friday’s unthinkable attack, and to all the families missing loved ones this holiday season, I pray you find some solace, whatever your beliefs may be, in the thought that while they are no longer with you they are safe wherever they are and can never be hurt again. May they rest in peace and let us never forget them.

“Perhaps they are not the stars, but rather openings in Heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy.”

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