One more day…one more school shooting. In this moment in history there is only one question that we can ask ourselves; What happens after Parkland? How do we move forward with what feels like a war rampaging in our schools and a total lack of caring from our government? Dr. Jenny Palmiotto shares her thoughts.
Snuggled in bed next to my two children, I have a hard conversation. I know that I could skip it and just trust that they will never be faced with the horrific task of trying to keep themselves alive, if their classroom becomes like Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Connecticut…or the countless other schools that I don’t know the names of because this type of thing isn’t even novel anymore.
The words spill out of my mouth and I keep tears from my eyes. I realize that there are at least 13 families in Florida that aren’t able to have this discussion tonight with their children because their children didn’t make it out of 2:30 dismissal. I say to my seven year old daughter and five year old son, “If you think that it’s fireworks at school, it might be guns. Find a place to hide.” My jaw tighten and I implore myself to keep a measured tone;this is so fucking sad. Then I help my children discover places in their classrooms that might be a good place for little bodies, if they ever needed to survive. For Grace, I help her realize that she might be able to get into the tub that collects lunch pails and cover herself with the her classmate’s half eaten meals. I tell her to stay there, very still until she sees a police officer. I look into her eyes and and she says “Why are you saying this, Mama?” I take her tiny hands into my own and say, “Sometimes people bring guns into schools and I want you to be prepared.” She takes in my words in with the seriousness of the discussion we are having and says, “Okay. Mom. I understand.”
For Oliver, my sweet boy in TK, my message is different. I know he needs an adult, as does every little body in that room. I tell him to put his hand in his teacher’s hand and don’t cry. I tell him that he can save all his tears for when he is home. I say, “Tell Ms. Knaplund that you loves her, then ask her where you should hide.” He does love her and she would hide him if she could, as so many teachers have done. I tell him to listen to her and stay exactly where she tells him to stay until his mama comes to find him. My eyes glisten as he nods showing me he is taking in my message.
I hug my children and share our family values; that kids should be safe at school. I fight hard the bitterness in my throat as I realize that this isn’t everyone’s values; some value money, power and an antiquated affection for our second amendment. My kids and everyone else’s children deserve better, but until we figure it out, I will help equip my children with the realities of their childhood.
I kiss my babies goodnight after answering their questions as best I could. They drift to sleep and I kiss them again, taking in their angelic faces. I know that there are too many moms that don’t get to press their lips against the warmth of their child’s check. This is more than unfair. Its revolting.
Next, I get curious about my children’s elementary school. How prepared are they for this for this sort of thing? I’m not surprised when I receive an earnest and honest answer from Mr. Morici, the principal at Loma Portal Elementary. It isn’t his fault. His teachers and classrooms are prepared for an earthquake or a power outage. They have food and water. They aren’t prepared for a gunman.They have nothing but a lock down training and raw hope that their campus remains safe from murderers carrying AR-15s and too much ammunition. Likely the same preparedness that teachers in every classroom in EveryTown, USA have been offered.
Preparing teachers and classrooms for this isn’t even close to the answer, but it may be the most actionable thing that I can do. It feels ridiculous that I am look for pricing on bullet proof wipe boards to send to my PTA, while politicians play sad and wait for this all to familiar experience to pass.
I get myself a glass of wine and cry. The reality is that I don’t know how to create the type of change that is needed to keep my children, all children, safe. I just know that I don’t want another kid to contend with a shooter at school.