By Dana Gornall
The morning started out like just about any other.
Coffee was dripping steadily into the pot, music was playing via Pandora on my computer and I sat scanning emails. I like quiet mornings; it gives me time to assimilate into the day before it starts—slowly, allowing my brain to unfold from restless and dark sleep.
It wasn’t long into my early routine when the sirens began. Ear piercing and shrill, I felt my shoulders creep upward toward my ears and my spine draw forward, protectively. Soon after hearing the sirens, the air was filled with the thump thump thump of helicopter blades drawing nearer to my street. We live just down the road from the high school and the middle school parking lot is a quick walk through two yards. Normally these sounds would induce a total panic but today I was forewarned we would be hearing this. Even though it was a Monday, my kids were sound asleep in their rooms while the staff and teachers underwent a violent intruder drill.
Growing up I remember tornado drills. A tone would be played over the speakers that were mounted on the walls of every classroom and we would line up, single file and trek to the school basement. We would be instructed to huddle down against the wall, arms covering our heads like small turtles, until we were given the all-clear. As a kid I often wondered if our tiny, child arms would really protect us from falling rubble. What would we do if our world started crumbling around us?
But this—a staged drill complete with police sirens, an ambulance and a helicopter—is a sign of the times.
And then yesterday while scrolling through my newsfeed I saw the headline about the shooting in Oregon and my heart dropped. Again. It happened again.
With each one, we seem to be a little less shocked. We shake our heads, solemnly. We repeat words like: Did you hear? Isn’t that awful? How many fatalities?
We turn our heads, we gaze downward toward the floor, we pause, and then we move on about our day. Our hearts grow a little heavier and we whisper about it in hushed tones. We silently pray it doesn’t happen in our communities—to our children.
In 1952 the United States was hit with a peak epidemic of Polio. 57,628 cases were reported, effecting children all over the nation and causing paralysis. In the late 1960s two million people over the entire globe were diagnosed with small pox, causing severe illness, long term disabilities and even death. When our society is hit with these things we do what is obvious—we create vaccines to try to prevent any more deaths and we educate as many as possible.
Our country has had 294 mass shootings in the past 274 days.
They are all of our children.
There are people on both sides of the fence on this issue. We have one side saying we all need to be armed, reciting laws and amendments that have been put in place for years. They talk about rights of the people and the absurdity of losing those rights. They claim we all need to protect ourselves with more guns. Directly opposite, there are those saying we need to outlaw guns completely. They say that the answer is to remove the tool that causes this. The general public should not be armed.
Guns don’t kills people, people kill people.
Mass ownership of firearms breeds more violence.
Violence begets violence.
It is the right of the people to bear firearms.
While we stand on one side of the fence or the other with our opinions, our facts and our reasons being held in our back pockets, our children are dying. When does it stop? When do we stop worrying about protecting opinions and egos, and instead begin to protect our children?
“Anger is the enemy of non-violence and pride is a monster that swallows it up.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
We need action. Yes, we need the drills and we need plans in place, but more than that we need to meet somewhere in the middle, lift our pride over our heads and set it on the ground and focus on what really matters. Rather than arguing about amendments and statistics, we need to shut our mouths and come up with a solution.
Our society seems to be climbing upward to a tipping point and I wonder what will be on the other side when it has been reached.
I sit here at my computer this morning. The room is darkened by the clouded, autumn morning sun and my coffee rests on the desk next to me, now lukewarm. My kids are at school today, not safely tucked in their rooms. I am beginning to assimilate into my day, my brain unfolding from restless and dark sleep.
We begin again.