There are sixteen school shootings that have happened in the United States, so says the poster on the Faculty Center for Excellence and Teaching on the third floor of James Hall that sits directly across from my math class. I sit on one of three ottomans outside of room 3117, glancing around before I notice this poster for the first time. What’s so sad about this is that I’ve had this classroom for two semesters already. What’s even sadder is that this poster was only hung this year.
Do you remember December 14th, 2012, because I do. It was a Friday and my father and I went to Malaga Diner for our usual breakfast date. There had recently been a train derailment, whether that was the same week or the week before I do not remember, so we expected to see updates on that. But when you turn on the news, and there’s an aerial view of an elementary school, you don’t know what to think. We didn’t know what had happened, we didn’t even know about the gunman, or that he was armed. What’s worse? We didn’t know about the kids. We didn’t know what would be their fate. And when you look back on something like that, a part of you dies inside.
I remember where I sat, that same afternoon, before I knew anyone had died, before I turned on the TV to see the mayor. And I remember turning to NBC and CNN and FOX and I remember the numbers differing all slightly, but followed by the same haunting word: children. I remember calling my mom and crying, asking why.
Because where I grew up, the school I went to, when you hit sixth grade you knew what Columbine was. Kids killing kids because they were black. Kids killing kids because they had been bullied. Kids killing kids because they were Christian. And even though you heard about something like that happening, and you knew who Rachel Scott was, who Cassie Bernall was, you never thought that could happen again. Much less to children.
It affected a whole country. The aftermath of it all; Obama standing at a lectern somewhere in Newtown, Connecticut, appealing for parents to hug their child a little tighter that night. We never saw it coming.
And it’s not the children’s fault that their parents and siblings and grandparents and neighbors and a whole country full of people they never even knew cried themselves to sleep that night at the horror of it all. They were up in heaven, no longer knowing sorrow. And we were all left feeling hollow. And you wanna know why we cried so much? Do you know what hurt the most?
We never saw it coming.