What Happened to Never Again?
In my little blood red town, blue is hard to come by. Until you walk into our schools. I witnessed this blue emerge after a mass shooting.
It was an unnaturally gloomy Midwestern summer day. Yesterday, it was humid and hot. Like you were standing in the desert while swimming through an ocean. Today, however, I had to wear a jacket to school because of the chill in the air. The weather was solemn; taking a break from the humidity and sun.
I had just finished my first set of exams. Looking forward to summer, I returned home to get ready for lunch with my friends. My mind was wrapped up in my own problems. I dropped off my bag, and noticed the house was unnaturally silent. As if paying respect to the dead.
My mother sat frozen on her favorite chair. Staring at her phone. As I entered the room, she looked up. Deep sadness, immense fear, and rage welled in her eyes. I had never seen her like this before. Moments later, it hit me: yesterday.
I sat on the floor by her chair. She spoke of the horror she felt, the grief she experienced , and her uncontrollable anger. “This could happen to my babies,” she said, “What if this happens to my babies?”
On May 24th, 2022, 19 students and 2 teachers were blown apart by a semi automatic assault rifle at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas. Salvador Ramos,18, a child himself, was identified and arrested as the shooter.
The “babies” my mother refers to are her Pre-K students: children around four to five years old. Her classroom is the first one that someone can see entering school, Immaculate Conception. Essentially, the easiest target.
School shootings have been a part of the ‘school experience’ since the first major mass shooting, Columbine High School, in 1999. By the time I entered school, intruder drills, or “code red” in my district, had been added to the list of ‘normal drills’, alongside fire, tornado, and earthquake drills. From five years old, children learn the rules of what to do in case someone enters our schools with the objective to kill us. It has been a part of my life for so long that I no longer pay attention when the intruder drill gets reviewed. My friend, Emma Wucher gives a student’s perspective on learning about the drill. “I could probably list the basics of what they tell us. ‘There’s a lock over there, put this over the doors, put this over the window, go to that spot, if we are able to we leave through this door and run outside, throw things if necessary, be quiet, and don’t move unless told too,’” she said, monotonously. We know the rules. At this point, they are boring.
Teachers try to deal with the other side of intruder drills: they have to stand in front of students and tell them the procedures to follow if someone intends to slaughter them. I interviewed my mom about how she feels teaching her Pre-K students about intruder drills. “For fire and tornado and earthquake, it is a natural force that we are protecting ourselves from. The intruder is another human being. All of these things are scary, but having them hear from me that they have to be afraid of other people who may someday want to come and kill them for no reason feels like I’m breaking them on the inside,” my mother said.
NPR covered the Uvalde shooting in live radio updates. As an NPR nerd, I listen to Morning Edition everyday while driving to school. The drive from my house to my high school takes five minutes. If I don’t speed, it takes six to seven minutes.
On my last day of school, I drove in silence. Trying to not swerve off the road, because my eyes had clouded over with tears, I listened to the newest update. NPR had interviewed the parents and family members about the victims. Listening to a father remember his daughter, I remember the moment when he started to cry, “She just was the person that would - she would give the - her shirt off her back, you know, type of person. She would do whatever she can. She would save her little money here and there and, you know, want to buy toys and, you know, give them away and stuff,” Javiar Cazeres said, the father of Jacklyn Cazeres, who was 9.
This got me thinking about policies. I mean, after every major school shooting, I’ve thought about policy. Why would the government not intervene when they have more little girls, like Jacklyn Cazeres, to save? I thought about how the victim’s parents, teachers, and classmates begging government officials to regulate gun control. How liberals would turn on conservatives. How girls at my school would post on their SnapChat stories, “Well you can kill someone with a rock, so does that mean we should ban rocks?” It made me so angry. Politicians would say that “We’re working on it” or “Reforms will happen sometime soon” But, “soon” has never come. Or, the most infuriating, “We’re discussing policies, it’ll never happen again”.
So what happened to never again?
I’ve heard many types of reactions to the resistance of gun reform laws. Living in Southern Illinois, a place where gun control is very lax, the majority of residents are ultraconservative. They love their “simple American dream” where the second Amendment is center stage. So when reforms on the second Amendment are vetoed, they rejoice. They are still able to“ defend” themselves and keep their semi-automatics. Sure, having something to defend yourself can make you feel protected. But a gun that can shoot 100 bullets rapidly without reloading is not a gun for self defense. Why an average citizen would need a semi automatic rifle to feel safe, is beyond my reasoning.
In the “simple American dream” life is kept in great value. Pro-lifers are very prevalent among the ultraconservatives that enjoy unregulated weapons. Being pro-life seem contradictory to the want for lax gun control. You know, Pro Life. Yet, this group of people is all for the buying and selling of mass murder weapons. Wucher, made a valid argument to pro-lifers. She argues, “Are you pro-life? And if so: Is a hunk of metal really more important than a living, breathing, person’s life?”
My home has a divide greater than most. Although, some subjects bring us together. When it comes to gun control, despite which side my teachers may lean, they all can agree: something needs to change in order for us to remain safe. When I was conducting interviews, I asked teachers what they would say to government officials who refuse to back gun control laws. Their responses were those of exasperation and anger. Lisa Donovan, a second and third grade teacher at a school in the town right next to mine, expressed her plea, “Please do something! The right to bear arms should not include weapons designed for mass shooting. Children should not have to die for your right to bear arms.”