It has been almost a decade since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Is that enough time between senseless mass killings of American children?
How can we be here again?
Being a human, and especially an elementary school teacher, I grieve every time this happens, anywhere. I’m sure these Grade 4 students in Texas are very much like those I teach here in Ontario: energetic, silly, fun, emotional, loving, sweet. Except that their lives have been cut short.
I’m a lot like Eva Mireles, who was also killed by the gunboy. I’m 44, like her, and have been teaching for 17 years, like her. I also love my students and just want them to feel safe and happy at school. She and Irma Garcia, the other fallen educator, wanted the same for their students. Of course, they couldn’t save them from this, even though they did what they could. I knew with deep certainty, even before finding out that they died with children in their arms, that they tried their hardest to protect them.
Although I’m in Canada, these events don’t seem far removed. My parents met and married in Texas. But for certain political events, I could easily have been Texan. I also have a daughter in Grade 4. She does not belong in the same room with assault rifles. And it must be admitted: while gun culture in the US is a unique beast, gun violence in Canada is rising at an alarming rate, especially in the last ten years. We won’t be immune to this.
Kids at Robb Elementary are wondering why this happened to them, because they “didn’t do anything wrong.” I can’t think of anything more heartbreaking than a child trying to figure out the sense of this. After all, no adult can explain the sense of this. It just… shouldn’t be.
Right now, a small group of Grade 4s that I teach are feeling that having to talk about the names of genitalia in Health class is a bit traumatic – but they do know better. They know that it’s not real trauma. They still have sharp, scary memories of the time two years ago that we had a lockdown that wasn’t a drill. They think of it any time we have any drill (fire, evacuation, severe weather, hold-and-secure, or lockdown). And the reason for that lockdown turned out to be an unarmed person who meant no harm to anyone. They still remember the fear, because they knew even then that bad things – awful, harrowing things – can and do happen.
I don’t see how the children who survived this event can ever feel safe again. What could a parent or educator ever say to convince a child who remembers this that things will be okay? Things won’t be okay. They are not okay. These families will never be without sorrow again.
As with Newtown, I can’t understand why ANY person in the U.S. thinks that their current gun laws are reasonable. If you think the gun situation in America is fine, then you think it’s okay for children to be shot dead. Any place where it is legal for a teenager to buy weapons that can mow down a classful of kids in a matter of moments is simply fucked up. There is nothing safe or free about that place.
Let’s not forget, we’re talking about a culture where it’s cool to tighten up the laws – as tight as a suffocating corset – when it comes to uteruses and unborn babies. But heaven forbid a government should increase restrictions on machines that can only threaten and destroy life. Once those babies have been born – and perhaps learned to talk and play and run and hug – they no longer need laws to protect them?
Another sign of a culture that has lost its way, tumbling down the cliff away from what can be called civilized society. And I am talking about the gun culture itself, the powers that keep a stranglehold on American policy. Most Americans, I am sure, are agonizingly aware that it is not okay for children to be shot dead.
And right now, we are in the Nth wave of the global hate pandemic that humanity can’t seem to overcome. Our species is passing hate around and letting it get bigger. In some cases, we are encouraging its growth. Even though lots of us work to live by love instead, sometimes it feels like there are simply too many people out there who think their hate is justified. Too many people who forget about others’ hearts. Every time someone is shitty to someone else, the virus grows more powerful. The stronger it gets, the more people die of it – period.
We can’t just call the people bearing this hate “evil,” as though they are a breed apart – as though hate is unfathomable and can’t be solved because it’s alien or inhuman. It’s very human, and we are all responsible for it. We are all part of hate, just as we are all part of love. Of course, we’re responsible for love too. We’re responsible for whatever we choose to spread around.
I’m sure there are reasons for some people carrying such a large burden of hate. Were they bullied or abused as children? Were their families and ancestors broken by trauma? Was safety never provided for them? Were they never treated with love? Have they been lonely their whole lives? Were their sources of comfort artificial in nature? Or were they simply indoctrinated by others who were broken?
We will probably never know the exact reason why this youth, on the day he became an “adult,” decided to enact a massacre. I’m sure the reasons would make us all shudder.
Right now, I am holding the Robb Elementary community in the Light. I am thinking with love of Alexandria Aniyah Rubio, Alithia Ramirez, Amerie Jo Garza, Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez, Eliahana Cruz Torres, Ellie Garcia, Eva Mireles, Irma Garcia, Jackie Cazares, Jailah Nicole Silguero, Jayce Luevanos, Jose Flores, Layla Salazar, Makenna Lee Elrod, Maite Rodriguez, Miranda Mathis, Nevaeh Bravo, Rojelio Torres, Tess Marie Mata, Uziyah Garcia, Xavier Javier Lopez, and their loved ones.
I know there is nothing that can ease this nightmare for them. I know that my sorrow cannot make theirs easier to bear. But I hope – I know – that they are holding each other close and enfolding each other in love.
For them, and for our whole struggling society, I promise to spread around love and often and as abundantly as I can. I know it’s the same torch that Eva and Irma carried. The least we can do is make it burn brighter when we get the chance.