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I am angry that this is our reality: Reacting to the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting

Students+at+Tam+High+School+in+Calif.+participate+in+a+vigil+for+victims+of+the+Stoneman+Douglas+High+School+shooting%2C+showing+that+the+grief+and+anger+is+experienced+by+us+all.+Photo+by+Fabrice+Florin+under+Creative+Commons+license.+
Students at Tam High School in Calif. participate in a vigil for victims of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, showing that the grief and anger is experienced by us all. Photo by Fabrice Florin under Creative Commons license.

Students at Tam High School in Calif. participate in a vigil for victims of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, showing that the grief and anger is experienced by us all. Photo by Fabrice Florin under Creative Commons license.

Students at Tam High School in Calif. participate in a vigil for victims of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, showing that the grief and anger is experienced by us all. Photo by Fabrice Florin under Creative Commons license.

Nicole Ong

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I am scared. I am sad. Above all, I am angry.

When I first heard the news of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, my first thought was, “Another school shooting?” At this point, school shootings have become common occurrences. Within the first seven weeks of 2018, there have already been 8 school shootings that have caused injury or death, and code red drills have become routine. I was heartbroken, of course, but I did not put much thought into the subject. I have thought about it so much that these thoughts have become normal to me.

I was also scared; how could I not be? School shootings are a scary topic, the thought of dying is inherently scary, but I was no longer scared, I was just numb. I had thought about school shootings so much that each new shooting no longer shocked me. I began to brush each tragic event off because it was out of my control, because they didn’t directly affect me or my loved ones, because I feared the consequences of standing up, because I didn’t know what to do, because it was easier for me to ignore the reality of all the incidents than to accept it. I ignored them out of fear, out of hopelessness, out of indifference. These shootings are a regular occurrence, and if this is our reality, shouldn’t I just live with it?

Then, one of my teachers brought up the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting and had a class discussion on the topic. The teacher prompted us to talk about how we felt, and the class settled into an awkward silence as only three or four of the thirty three students spoke. I am forever thankful for that discussion, however, as it prompted me to further think about the topic at home, and the more I thought about it, the more emotional I got.

I started asking myself: what separates me from the students in Florida? Despite being across the country, they are high school students just like me. What is stopping someone from walking onto my campus with a gun and killing students?

I remember when the Pulse nightclub shooting occurred in June 2016: I was in New York for summer vacation. I had just come back from watching a musical, and the news of the shooting was playing on a TV in the hotel lobby. I am unsure of why, but when I heard the news, a deep panic settled within me. I remember talking to my friend that night and opening up to them about the fear I experienced. I asked them what would happen if I was a victim in the next mass shooting, and I told them that if I died in a shooting, I wanted them to know that I loved them more than anything. I had not thought about that moment until this shooting.

I was only thirteen when the Pulse nightclub shooting occurred, and although that incident was not a school shooting, the emotions that it elicited are similar to the emotions I feel about the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School. I was only thirteen when I genuinely asked myself what would happen if I died in a shooting.

Now, I am merely a sophomore. I am only fifteen and I am asking myself the same question I asked myself then. The question has changed from“what would happen if I died in a shooting?” to “what would happen if I die in a shooting— at school?”

I am beyond scared. What if a person with a gun were to walk into Lynbrook? What if my friends die in a school shooting? What if I die in a school shooting? Where would my belongings go? Who would manage my social media accounts? Who would be there for my parents? I recently even started writing a letter for my best friend in case I died in a shooting and did not get the chance to tell them I loved them.

And the more I think about it, the angrier I become.

I am a sophomore in high school who has yet to experience the world. I should not fear coming to school, much less fear that somebody wielding a gun will shoot me while I am in school. The thought of someone coming onto my school with a gun and killing my friends, or even killing me, should not have even crossed my mind, let alone be an actual possibility.

Columbine occurred in 1999. I was born in 2002. Like many of my peers, I have grown up with school shootings occurring every so often. And like for many of my peers, these shootings have become “normal” to me. We tell ourselves that it won’t happen to us, and we don’t think about it any further. School shootings have become something we read about, mourn, and eventually forget. We have become desensitized to the topic of school shootings, and the thought that one could happen to us. It is not our fault that this has become our reality, but I am angry that it is.

How has it become normal to us that at any moment, a shooter could walk onto campus and kill our peers, our friends, our teachers? How have we become accustomed to the constant thought of “Hey, someone could walk onto campus and shoot me!”? How is it a fact that I have had to tell my best friend, a person I never want to lose, “If I die in a shooting, you mean everything to me. I love you more than anything.” How is this now a reality? Perhaps I am overthinking it. But isn’t the fact that those thoughts have even crossed my mind a sign of a much bigger issue?

Take code red drills, for example. Code red drills are, essentially, an “in case a shooter comes on campus” plan. In elementary school, we found these drills fun. In middle school, we brushed them off. In high school, we’re on our phones during these drills. I’m not here to say that code red drills are bad; they’re necessary and I’m thankful we have them. But how have these drills become part of our yearly routine? How have we become so accustomed to this, to the point where these drills hold no more importance to us? How have we become so numb to the fact that we even need these drills?

It is not our fault that we, as students, have grown up with the constant fear of mass shootings as our reality. I am not angry at those who are are numb to it; I am guilty of that as well, and the numbness is merely an effect of the constant exposure to the subject. We are no longer fearful, we no longer care, and we no longer push for action. I am angry that school is no longer a guaranteed safe space for students. I am angry that the only thing that we can do about the lives lost is to send our thoughts to the families of victims. I am angry that there are so many beautiful people whose lives were cut short in these shootings. I am angry that this is our reality now, that this is something that we’ve accepted as normal.

For too long, I have failed to recognize and stand up for this issue. For too long, I have characterized my fear and anger as “normal.” For too long, I have characterized this fear and anger as the price I pay as a student for coming to school, as if the possibility of a school shooting is something I should be used to in order to gain my education. I am done brushing off these tragedies like they are “no big deal.” I am done thinking that thoughts and prayers are a sufficient response to the situation. How many lives must be taken before we can start to acknowledge the seriousness of these incidents? We have grown up with mass shootings as our reality, and we have grown numb to them. But we have the power to change this, and we will no longer stay silent.

I am scared. I am sad. Above all, I am angry. I am no longer pushing these feelings away. And I will no longer be silent.

1 Comment

One Response to “I am angry that this is our reality: Reacting to the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting”

  1. Judy Rodak on February 24th, 2018 1:07 pm

    It is with pride and a heavy heart that I respond to your article, Nicole. As someone who shared code red drills with you at Blue Hills, I believe you are ready to hear the point of view that the staff has. The thoughts you are wondering about, the fears, the questions, they have been mine and the teachers for as long as we have been doing code red drills. As a fourth or fifth grader, you and your classmates participation did not take on the same anxiety that the adults had. (And still as elementary students have). The same cannot be said for the teachers and staff. We prepare for these drills with the dread that we have to do them. Our District has had several lock downs that were real in the last few years. During our preparations when the Sheriff’s and Principal are standing and going over our options, these are our choices: 1) Run (with 400+ 5-11 year olds, that include special needs and non-English speaking children). 2). Hide (you know BH, if you are not in a portable that is nearly impossible.) 3). Defend (my sister fears for me. She knows to well that I will) Then the drill begins. The class clowns are present, no matter how you threaten. The kids that daydream and did not hear a word of any of the instructions leading up to the drill. Then the couple of students you can count on, no matter their age.

    My takeaway always seems to be the same, whether a real lockdown or A drill. It goes like this, first the conversations with the class after the drill. Almost each time a hand goes up. “Would you really stand in front of a shooter for us?” I do not feel I can answer this simply. I have to go and kneel down at his/her eye level. I look right in to their eyes and tell them, “Absolutely, I promise I will.” Their believing me, gives me comfort. If I can make them believe in me, then I know without a doubt that I can. I do not think in possibilities any longer. I am a pessimistic-optimistic. I would rather prepare then give people the benefit of the doubt. If you know me, then you know that about me.

    What you feel now, is something I’d hope you would never have to. Nicole, you were one of those that trusted me completely. I am so blessed that I never had to take that challenge on, but trust me, I always had several back up plans! (still do) For you or any young person not to feel safe at the very place you spend most of your day is a crime in itself. The fact that you and your classmates have to be as vigilant as the adults scares me, and breaks my heart. As said in your article, which I found to be amazing, heart felt and honest…this is your new norm. One I sadly saw coming.

    Lastly, I’m sure I speak for all of the teachers and staff throughout our community. We have your backs, we do care enough to stand in front of you and take a bullet. Hoping it will never happen, doesn’t seem to be an option any more. We all need to be honest, open and prepared. Know this though, your teacher’s have taken each drill as serious as if it were the real thing. Keep dreaming, sharing and understanding. ☮️

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The Student News Site of Lynbrook High School
I am angry that this is our reality: Reacting to the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting