I know in today's fast paced age, December 14, feels like a lifetime ago. Today, I'll pause to remember and reflect... Will you join me?
It was just over a month ago, when many people's lives were forever changed by one man. In addition to the people who lost a loved-one that day, other people's lives have changed as well. Schools have already implemented new safety measures, government officials continue to debate changes to gun control and medical health laws, news reporters try to dig up one more angle, and everyone else seems to have something to say about it.
Here's what I know.
I've taught for many years in many different settings.
I was teaching in a grade K-8 school when the Columbine massacre happened. That scared us; it scared the entire nation. New safety measures were put into place back then too. Since then, I've participated in drills. These drills were meant to help school employees know how to best react in similar situations. We never included the children. We were taught that it was most important for the staff to know what to do in a crisis. Because every crisis is different, the students' role is to follow directions.
With Sandy Hook, the world has changed again. Now, an intruder has entered an elementary school. Now, I teach in a school that educates children from age 2 through 7th grade. Now, we feel it is necessary to prepare the children as well as the adults.
When our school ran it's first drill, I thought I was prepared. After all, I'd done this before; I knew what to do. But something else has changed for me. Now I have a daughter who attends the same school where I teach. Her classroom is nearer the front entrance than mine. Her class consists of young children who may not be able to keep silent in a crisis, no matter how hard the teachers try. While I huddled, out of sight, with my students, I couldn't help but think, "I wouldn't be able to help my daughter, and I would be able to hear everything." I couldn't sleep for a week after that drill, and I had no words to explain when my daughter asked me why I was crying.
I've been trying to avoid any news about gun control because I can't believe people are bickering when they should be discussing solutions. Stricter gun control laws can be implemented without denying people's rights. We can implement laws with harsher penalties for those who misuse guns. We can make sure guns are more difficult for certain members of the population to get. Will that stop all future gun violence? Of course not! But that doesn't mean we should make it easy.
On the other hand, I have begun seeing news about mental health changes. It's about time! It infuriates me when people who need mental health services are put on a wait list that is two or more years long. I feel physically ill when friends of mine (health care providers) are laid off because the mental health services at the hospital are being cut back to save money. Is saving money really worth more incidents like Sandy Hook?
As a nation, we really need to begin looking out for each other. That means spending money up front to prevent catastrophes. It means caring for those in need, so they will not feel the need to lash out indiscriminately. We need to develop compassion. For those who are worried about cost, prevention usually costs less in the long run. Please, vote for compassion when the time comes, even if that means spending our resources a little differently or completing extra paperwork for those who choose to own a gun.