Now that I’ve graduated to my mid/late thirties, I’m more aware than ever that today’s kids are growing up differently than I did. This isn’t going to turn into a, “when I was your age” diatribe because I also understand that I grew up differently than my parents, who came of age during the era of “duck and cover.”
“Can you imagine?” I used to say. “It’s NUCLEAR ARMAGEDDON, the world is coming to an end, everybody get under your desk! That’ll do it.” You see, I was used to fire drills – there is a simple logic that applies to a fire in any building. “The building is on fire, so let’s get out of the building.” There’s dozens of reasons a fire could start in a structure and there’s really only one that’s malicious, so a fire drill didn’t exactly strike fear into my heart. But my parents and now kids today face a threat I can scarcely imagine.
That’s the thing that really struck me about the speeches at the #MarchForOurLives event I attended in Hackensack, New Jersey. When these kids got up to speak -these seniors, juniors and even a freshman in high school came up to the microphone – they all talked a lot about the drills. These kids have grown up in the era of the active shooter drill, the lockdown drill. This is a totally foreign experience to me. When I was a kid all the way through grade school, we’d have random fire drills. The school bell wood ring in a tick-tick-tick emergency fashion and we’d all get up walk out of the classroom, down the hall, out on to the sidewalk and stand around for a while until some administrator waved us back in. That’s it. These children brought me up to speed: an announcement comes over the PA that the school is in lockdown mode and each classroom begins the procedure. They close the door and lock it. They draw all the window shades. They hide the kids in a corner or in a closet. And then they wait. They wait and they wait and they wait. They wait for an all clear because these kids say that they never know if it’s a drill or if it’s the real thing. I guess I didn’t either when it came to fire drills, but school fires are a rare things. You knew it probably wasn’t a fire. Anybody who even casually pays attention to the news knows that anytime a school goes into lockdown, the unspeakable could be happening.
This isn’t something that these children think about just when a tragedy occurs – this is something they deal with every day. They have to get up each morning and face their fears – that they could become another story on the news. One of these young speakers talked about how they didn’t worry about the results of a test because they figured there was a chance they wouldn’t be alive to receive them. Another joked that all they wanted to worry about at school was test scores, project grades and what the cafeteria was serving for lunch. And that’s how it should be.
Unfortunately, we all know the truth – that’s now how it is. But it could be. You’ve probably heard people saying that this isn’t a gun issue, it’s a mental health issue, but every country has people that are unwell and they don’t have the same gun violence problem we have here in the United States, so that tells me that the problem is guns and we have to fight back. The best ways to do this are to donate to gun safety groups like Everytown and vote for candidates who support gun control and campaign finance reform because until we get the guns off the streets and the money out of politics, nothing is going to change.
But we can make it happen. I hope you’ll join this movement and take action today.