I haven’t had the inspiration to write much recently (either here or on my dissertation), so I decided to look back, and the last time I did a post like this was exactly one year ago today.
But here I am, once again on February 19th, once again staying in and getting real, albeit in different apartment, in a different zip code. And I still have trouble concentrating on writing when the TV is on and not muted.
Things here have been pretty normal, I guess. But only here.
Ever since the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school massacre last week – a Columbine for the 21st century – things have felt as eerie as they did back in the 1990s. Granted, I was only in elementary school and I did not understand its impact on American life as much as someone a few years older than me would have, but even so, the topic came up in my fifth grade classroom. I remember how it opened up an entire conversation of violence in schools. I remember the images from the news; the low-res CCTV camera footage of the shooters walking down the halls in trenchcoats, the still image of the library window, the video on the news of students in sweatshirts and turtlenecks running away from the camera, their hands covering their ears.
Things should have changed then, but obviously, they didn’t. It’s happened so many times since, at all types of schools, most prominently universities, but something of Columbine-like proportions occurring again – in almost the same manner, just at a different school in a different state – just makes a person feel like they live in an illogical, unfeasible, chaotic world, a world where something like this, which shouldn’t happen, happens. It’s interesting to note that once again, most of the deceased and most of the people speaking out are white, but that’s beside the point. At least this time, social media has captured the unseen angles, the perspectives of the students who were there, in clear and concrete photos, videos, and tweets, and it’s actually done some good for once, helping to spread the word of how these teenagers feel. Who knows what will come of this – sadly, probably nothing – but at least the higher level of visibility is keeping the issue afloat for longer, and reaching farther than Columbine did.
Today, at my office, the fire alarm went off. I didn’t pay much attention to it; I was packing up to go home anyway, so I just hustled a little bit to get my things together and get out of the building, but for a split second, I felt this weird fear, the same kind of fear I felt in the first fire drills after Columbine, and 9/11 (the day which, by the way, the electricity shorted out in my high school and the fire alarm set itself off and everyone went crazy for about ten minutes), and I silently wondered what it would have been like if it was something unthinkable. What would I have done? Hiding under the desk wouldn’t have done much good, at least had I not slammed my door shut first, which is locked from the outside, but who knows if I would have even had the time. All I would have had to defend myself would be a backpack full of books and my students’ work, and maybe two chairs if it came down to it. It’s a thought that now, sounds silly and strange. But due last week’s event, that fire alarm kicked in a reminder, if only for a few seconds, that we still live in a world where things like this can happen and do happen.
Say what you will about guns, mental illness, bullying, but point blank – whatever the reason, there is no excuse for mass shootings.