How many more senseless deaths of innocent children will it take before our nation collectively decides that enough is enough?
Following the tragic events that unfolded at Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week, claiming the lives of 17 students and teachers, the issue of public safety, mental illness, and of course, gun control has been brought back to the debate table.
17 School Shootings in 2018
We're not even two full months into 2018 and there have already been 17 school shootings, according to gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety. The organization reports any time that a firearm is intentionally or accidentally discharged on a campus, even if there are no fatalities.
Since the latest mass shooting, the whole nation has been up in arms about the dire need for stricter gun laws, however, there is another issue that deserves to be in the forefront: why don't we have stricter security measures in our schools?
On February 21, President Donald Trump held a "listening session" at the White House with students and parents to discuss mass school shootings and safety. While every individual had an important point to present, Andrew Pollack, the father of slain Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student, Meadow, gave one of the most impactful statements that not only holds those with authority responsible, but everyone else in the country.
"It is not about gun laws. That is another fight, another battle," Pollack said. "Let's fix the schools and then you guys can battle it out whatever you want. But we need our children safe. Monday, tomorrow, whatever day it is, kids go to school. Do you think everyone's kids are safe?"
We Need To Keep Our Children Safe
It's not to downplay the significant role weapons, like guns, play in our society, however as parents, whose roles include ensuring our children are safe at all times, it's time we start taking action. Just talking about implementing stricter gun laws or blaming lawmakers isn't going to fix a problem that's been haunting the nation for decades.
When school shootings happen, the loss of innocent lives is felt by everyone, regardless of race, religious beliefs or political affiliations. So why can't we put those differences aside and work together to make sure our kids will come back from school every day?
"It almost makes me want to go insane. It's anger, fear, sadness, pain all exponentially greater than the words in a sentence or two can describe," one parent said after reflecting on the the recent school shootings.
At the end of the day, republican or democrat, we're all human and each and every single one of us would be devastated if we lost a loved one in such a tragic manner. I don't know about you, but for me, my friends and colleagues, there is nothing worse than losing a child and living the rest of our lives with the guilt of knowing that we didn't do enough to protect them and that at their most terrifying moments we weren't there to console them.
"To Think Of Her Being So Scared..."
One of my colleagues and father-of-one said it best: "When I think of losing my daughter, of not being able to see her every day when I get home from work, of not being able to celebrate life with her as she grows up and becomes her own person, there is not even an emotion I can use to describe it." He continued, "But to then think about losing her in such a violent manner, in a preventable, violent, senseless act that would cause her pain, or to think of her being so scared that she even thinks she might not live through an experience, or being traumatized in a way that I can't even come close to relating to, will never be able to comfort her or take the pain away, that's unbearable."
He added, "And I want to do more than just say that I will protect her from that - I want to make sure that there is actual change. First in protecting her, and then following up with the other tough conversations that absolutely need to take place."
Why Don't Our Schools Have Security?
Pollack also brings up another important point when he said that "We protect airports. We protect concerts. Stadiums. Embassies. The Department of Education that I walked into today has a security guard in the elevator."
Even our malls, banks, and hotels have security to make us feel safe. Think about it for a second. Doesn't it seem weird that all these public spaces are protected but somehow our schools, where our children spend most their day, are void of this level of security?
If you were to visit New York City right now, every establishment has employed specific security measures in case another attack similar to 9/11 was to occur. These are all solutions that were put into place after the deadly attack for the sake of people's safety and to minimize the death toll if disaster ever strikes. Shouldn't the same measures be applied to schools too?
Yes, some will argue that there are schools that already have metal detectors and other security protocols, but the reality is that many don't. Many school boards and parents don't think this type of horrific incident would happen to them, but unfortunately, there has been plenty of proof that no one is immune. It's not enough to just have active shooter drills and call it a day.
It Won't Bring Back What We've Lost
We can go back and forth and argue about gun control all day long, but all that talk will not bring back the children we've lost and it certainly won't protect the ones that are still here with us. It's easy to place blame on the weapons and those who wield it, and ask someone else to do something about it, but right now, what our children really need is for us to step and take matters into our own hands.
It's time for us to approach our principals, school board members, teachers, community leaders, and parent committees with solutions for how we can implement new safety measures that will protect our kids. Whatever it takes, be it letters, protests, petitions, do it. We can no longer just limit ourselves to speaking out on social media, or having a debate with other parents, it's time step up and work as hard as we can to ensure that mine and your children will grow up.
"I'll Never See My Kid Again"
"That's it. No other discussion. No more discussions. I'll never see my kid again. Never ever will I see my kid. I want to sink in. Eternity. My daughter, I'm never going to see again. And it is simple. We can fix it," said Pollack.
It's emotionally and physically sickening to have to watch parents like Pollack talk about losing a child in such a horrifying manner. I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like to be in their shoes, but the sad reality is that if we don't fix this, we could one day be in that dreaded position.