At 12:39 a.m., my husband’s phone rang. A text message beeped. He rolled over and turned it off, not revealing to me the message, though I tossed and turned for the next fewer-than-five hours of “sleep” until my alarm startled me into a flood of my own messages. Realities of life in America in 2019.
This child, infatuated with the Columbine massacre that has been the backbone of her school upbringing, made “a credible threat” to “a school” and kept all the parents, teachers, officials, and students in a state of shock for the remainder of the day.
A girl, a lost girl brought up by school lockdowns, a mass shooting every day of her young life (of all of our lives), school shootings that have taken the lives of teens and six-year-olds, schools surrounded by armed police officers and security guards, and social media filled with conspiracy theorists and bullying…
Was she a credible threat, or was it us?
Is it us?
When will guns ever be considered a credible threat? When will gun stores who sell shotguns to 18-year-old out-of-state children be considered a credible threat? When will assault rifles be considered a credible threat? When will her online banterings (cries for help), the banterings of every filled-with-angst teen, be considered a credible threat?
One “shoe bomber” entered a plane. We remove our shoes in security.
Thousands of children died in car accidents. We put them in car seats.
Thirty babies died in baby swings. We recall the swing.
Are these credible threats?
Just as Sol Pais grew up with the Columbine tragedy as a backstory to her school experience, I have grown into my teaching career, my parenting life, with its everyday reality. I was a junior in college when the front pages of both newspapers in Denver were filled for weeks with the news of, Why? Who? How? All the major networks sent reporters that day for an emergency special. All of America, seeing the horrific scene played out on television, sat in numb disbelief.
Twenty years later, hundreds of school shootings later, there might be a few headlines for a day or two. A growing number of protests. A teary-eyed president’s remarks. An ignorant president’s remarks.
Yet, we have done everything but what we need to do to prevent the credible threat of another mass shooting.
We have lockdowns and lockouts at least four times per school year just for practice. Our kids huddle like rats in cages under desks in a dark corner of the classroom, always acutely unaware if this will or will not be the day they die.
We have more security guards and armed police officers walking the hallways. Some schools even arm teachers.
We watch videos to start the school year showing active shooter training for our district staff.
We have metal detectors, clear backpacks, and every exterior door locked to outsiders.
We have to talk to our kids, all of our kids–our students and our own–on a regular basis about reporting threats to Safe2Tell, about keeping an eye on suspicious students, adults, about what guns can and will do.
The most credible threat in the world, the simplest solution, has never even been considered.
What if we just stopped selling guns? Assault weapons?
What if this 18-year-old child barely knew about Columbine because, after all the horrifying media attention after it occurred, our senators and representatives went back to Congress and represented the victims, rather than the NRA, and passed a bill that could save every credible threat like this from ever happening?
What if, at 12:39 a.m., I could dream a peaceful dream, and not have to think about what I’ll say to my daughters today and my students tomorrow?
There is only one credible threat here, and it is not an 18-year-old child.
It is ourselves. Our government. Our inability to bring the life, liberty, and security that we so proudly proclaim we offer in this “dreamland” of the United States.