Every morning, I walk our 2 younger children into school.
There’s a corner in the hall where we split up, and our 7 year-old heads toward his class.
That’s where we perform our goodbye ritual.
I hug him. He hugs me. He hugs his sister. I tell him I love him. And I say my goodbye to him.
Just a few more steps, and we’re in our 5 year-old’s Pre-K class. I repeat the same routine with her.
It is a necessary part of our morning, and I make sure the hugs are perfect—never hurried. They are tight. They are full. I pour my heart and soul into them.
I have to do it, because I can’t shake the thought that this could be the last time I’ll ever see my kids alive. I have to say goodbye.
Tuesday, 2 people walked into a school in Colorado and opened fire, killing one (so far as of this writing)—another one in the growing list of school shootings happening across the country. Another set of victims and families spun into grief and trauma.
But just like ripples on the water, the effects of a mass shooting touches many other people besides the victims. The closer you live to the event, the harder the ripples hit, and the harder it is to cope with the fear that it could happen again.
Mass shootings occupy a small fraction of gun deaths annually, but unlike the rest, usually the only criteria for the targets of this kind of slaughter is location of the victim. There is no apparent catalyst or predictor. It just happens.
The horror victims and their families endure is almost unimaginable.
I don’t WANT to imagine it.
But I do anyway.
Every day. Every single day.
The reason? The very community where we live has seen 2 mass shootings in less than 2 years. That’s right. Both of them less than 10 miles from our home.
A little over a year ago, a man walked into a Waffle House 5 miles from here, killed 4 people, and injured 4 more. He escaped the scene and spent the next 34 hours on the run.
I’ll never forget sitting at home waiting to hear the news that he had been captured. He could have ended up anywhere, even in our front yard. When police apprehended him nearby, he was still carrying a backpack with arms and ammo.
7 months before that, a man opened fire on a church just a little farther away, killing one person and injuring 7 more.
This is our reality. Unsuspecting people are dying in torrents of gunfire.
It hasn’t happened at a school nearby, but I can’t help but wonder if it will sooner than later since schools are a favorite target of shooters.
Yesterday was another stone thrown into the water, rippling out to the community around it. My mind goes immediately to other parents who are now saying their last goodbyes every day just like me.
With each passing week the ripples get closer to overlapping and edging us toward a perpetual wave of daily violence scattered across the country.
THIS IS REAL. IT IS A CRISIS.
It can happen where you live. I know because it is happening where I live. The ripples are coming.
And the more people simply issue thoughts and prayers and whatever other lip service makes them feel good today—only to go back to their every day lives unchanged, the more the time runs out on the ones they love.
When I say goodbye to my children at school, I really mean it. I want no regrets. I don’t want to squander the chance for my kids to feel my love one last time. It shouldn’t have to be that way.
We are past due for reform and for doing the right thing about guns and the people who are able to get their hands on them. We have cashed all our checks on waiting to see if this will get better on its own.
We’re already out of time, and we have been for too long. This has to end. I don’t know how it will happen. I really don’t. But I’m over stifling my voice. I’m done pretending I’m ok.
I am not ok.
The weight of saying goodbye to my children is getting too heavy to bear, and it’s time to speak up so none of us has to live through that pain every day.
I know I’m not the only one.
We have to fight this. If we don’t, everyone who has died at the hand of a random shooter will have died in vain.
We must call to account those who refuse to acknowledge the issue. We have to put to shame those who are unwilling to dig deeper to the root of the problem. And we must vote those out of office who will not move on this nightmare and lead us to finding some real goddamn answers.
We need relief, and we need it now.
Now is the time–today–to band together and lift our voices.
Our duty is to join those who will stand against this era of fear and violence and champion the cause of hope and peace.
It’s up to us at every level—in our families, our civic and religious organizations, our neighborhoods, counties, states, and our nation—to do something to solve this.
I wish peace and healing to those affected directly by this senseless violence.
You have my voice.
No more goodbyes. Just. No more. Please.