As a child, I learned drills for fires, earthquakes, and lockdowns. None of those were ever actually a real threat to us. We giggled as we got under our desks and chatted during the annual Great California Shakeout and whispered as we turned off the lights to ward off campus intruders. But somewhere along the way, it all changed. Earthquakes and fires were no longer the bigger threats. School administration spoke quietly about what to do in the event of a shooter coming to campus. Fences were erected. Gates were locked. The country mourned for Sandy Hook, the world mourned for Paris. Mass shootings have become more and more common, with people brazenly wielding guns in public places. What kind of world is that? They leave more victims than drunk driving or plane crashes. I can’t imagine a world where it’s necessary for my children to grow up learning the fastest escape routes, or how to quietly dial 911. I don’t want them to grow up in a world where that’s the norm.
When I heard about the San Bernardino attack, it finally hit me how real the threat is. I’d heard about mass shootings since I was a child. I’d heard about Virginia Tech, Columbine and Paris, but those were thousands of miles away from me. But this was San Bernardino- half an hour away from me. This was a place I’d been countless times. I have cousins that live there, I had JUST been there over Thanksgiving break. And then, just a week later, tragedy struck. I’m grateful that my family is safe, and I cannot imagine the pain and sorrow the victims’ families must feel. My heart goes out to them.
On top of worrying about grades and college, students now have to worry about whether we’ll actually make it out of our school alive. And the fear doesn’t stop there. Because the truth is, it could happen anywhere. In a restaurant, a plaza, a church, or a concert hall. Yes, I know that no one is ever TRULY safe, but should you really be worried about being murdered when you’re out with your friends and family, enjoying a nice dinner, a casual stroll in the mall, or a routine appointment? Why should we waste our lives fearing death at the hands of others? Why can’t we go anywhere without knowing that there’s a chance a gunman could end our lives that night? No human should be allowed to inflict that kind of fear and pain.
There is a growing realization of the gravity of this situation. Now, it isn’t just something we watch on the news from the safety of our living rooms. It’s affecting us, our friends, our family. It’s happening in the places we live or the cities we’ve been to.
But the world is at odds- we’ve run into a problem. The country is divided and no one seems to have the right answer. But while we fight over that, innocent victims are losing their lives every day. Parents are leaving the house in the morning and never coming back. Students are going to school and calling their parents in a panic because of a campus intruder. Normal people, people we may have associated with on a day-to-day basis, are making the decision to end the lives of innocents. Why can’t we agree not to kill people? Not to leave unarmed bystanders at the mercy of monsters who shoot without warning or pause. Not to shatter homes and hearts at the pull of a trigger. Where is the humanity in this?
I know I’m only 17 years old, and I’m not as seasoned or as wise as others, but I do know one thing: I don’t want to live in a world where I go to school fearing that today might be the day a shooter takes my life.