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Over Easy: The Promise

White Newtown RibbonMy daughter Kristin posted this to her own blog yesterday. I thought it deserved a wider audience, so I am posting it here, edited sightly for length, with her permission.
It has been a little over a month since the Sandy Hook shootings, and not a day goes by that I don’t think about the 26 lives lost that day. Each day as I step foot into my workplace, my mind almost immediately goes to Connecticut, and I think of that horrible day.

Unusual, you may ask? Not if you know that my workplace is an elementary school. I am a “special area” teacher at a local elementary school, and spend my weekdays teaching students in grades K-5, working with close to 150 different kids in one day. Thirty of the kids I see each day are first graders, the same age as the 20 sweet children who lost their lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Just days before that dreadful day in Newtown, CT, our school had a safety drill. For the protection and safety of our students, I cannot and will not give details on the actual drill or procedures, but I will tell you that every time we have this drill, at least one student asks why we have it. My answer is almost always something like, “to practice being safe” or to “help keep you safe.” Many times students will discuss among themselves before or after the drill that we have to practice “hiding from the bad guys” or to “lock the bad guys out.” Some have to be imagining what the “bad guy” looks like or what “he” might do. I’ve had first graders or kindergarten students in class during one of these drills, and I always have a few that are frightened, even though they know it is just a drill.

When I’ve had to review procedures for the drill, I’ve seen the wide eyes staring back at at me, filled with either fear or wonder. They are thinking, “What could be so bad in school that we would need to hide in the first place?” I’ve even likely said to a few of them “nothing bad would ever happen here” or similar words. After all, it isn’t likely or common for elementary students to bring guns to school to shoot other students, right? And who would shoot a bunch of elementary school kids anyway? *sigh*

I can’t help thinking that the teachers and staff of Sandy Hook Elementary had those same thoughts and uttered those same words whenever they had to reassure children during their school safety drills. I can’t let myself go to the place they might have been mentally on December 14, 2012, when “all hell broke loose.”

And then I think, “How did we get here?”

How did we get to the point where these drills are needed in the first place? Why is it that we have to teach our children to hide from “bad guys” in one of the places they should feel safest? The “real world” can be a scary one to elementary school students. Heck, the real world can be scary for students of all ages! That “big scary world” isn’t supposed to invade their schools, playgrounds or homes! They should always feel safe at home as well as to play outside or hang with friends at the local mall. And children most certainly should feel safe when they go to school every day.

I remember being in elementary school (it was just yesterday after all, right?) and the only drills we ever had were those to protect us if there was a fire or a bad storm in the area. What has become of our society that children now have to worry about being safe at school in addition to all of the other scary “real world” places? What has become of our society that when parents kiss their kids goodbye in the mornings before putting them on the bus or dropping them off at the school door, they have to hope and pray they will have the chance to kiss them again at the end of the day?

I thought about making this post about gun control, because all of the latest talk has gotten me really thinking about it again. However, I am not writing this to start a debate. Guns, after all, are just part of the problem. I want to make people stop and think, to stop arguing and to listen.

We have failed as a society when we care more about our rights to own guns and stockpiles of ammunition than we do about keeping our children safe, giving them proper health care or keeping them warm and fed. I reeeaaaalllly don’t want to make this post about gun control, but I don’t think I will ever understand why so many people are so against having tougher laws when it comes to buying and owning guns! So many times I’ve heard, “What about knives or ropes? Those things can kill people too.” Well, the last time I checked, knives and ropes are tools that were designed and are mainly used for a different purpose. Unfortunately they are also used by some people to kill – sometimes. But a gun is a weapon, not a tool, one that most people use to hunt for food or for sport, but unfortunately too often to kill people. Big difference. And what about those special guns that can kill bunches of people in a matter of seconds? Do we really need to own those? Really??

I don’t want to hear the argument that “guns don’t kill people, people do” ever again. It is true, guns don’t kill people all by themselves. However some people operating guns use the guns to kill people way too often. And many who use guns to kill people are mentally ill or just plain bad and evil and hey, they can buy guns at Walmart or on the Internet (without anyone ever checking to see who they are)! We as a society have failed them too.

We have failed as a society when we care more about ourselves than each other, and don’t want to take our noses away from our televisions, computers, video games, smart phones (guilty as charged) and other devices to notice the people around us.

When is the last time you really got to know all (or even many) of your neighbors? How many of us would even recognize a nearby neighbor if we saw them in the grocery store? When I was growing up, we didn’t know everyone, but we knew most of our close neighbors, had block parties and other get-togethers, and ran around outside for hours with our friends. It is not like that anymore.

We really fail as a society when it comes to helping each other. Sure, we are great at helping in times of disaster or sickness, but what about all the time? So many of us don’t want to help the poor, the homeless, the sick, the mentally ill, the elderly, or our children – I could go on and on – not if it means giving up some of our money. We are too selfish. This goes beyond gun control. We need to take a long hard look at ourselves, stop being such a selfish “all about me” society and start caring more about each other, just like we did in the “olden” days. Not just in times of need, but all of the time.

After the Sandy Hook shootings, I loved hearing about how so many people across the country and the world were participating in “26 Acts of Kindness,” to honor the memory of those 20 children and 6 adults taken from us way too soon. I even did some of those kind things myself. But maybe if we were a kinder, more caring society, we wouldn’t have so much “bad stuff” happening. Our children would feel safe to go to school again and no parent would ever have to worry that when they kissed their precious little ones goodbye in the morning, it would be for the last time.

And if someone was thinking of hurting our children (or any human being, for that matter), we’d recognize right away that there was a problem, we’d know the warning signs that something wasn’t quite right, get that person help right away, and maybe even prevent a tragedy! Just by caring about each other? Wow, what a thought!

As a teacher, I owe it to my students to do what I can to help keep them safe both in school and in our community. I recently made a special promise, in honor of the Sandy Hook Elementary victims and survivors, and I’d love to see you do the same. Please click here for more information, and please help spread the word. This is the least we can do. We all have to work together to stop this sort of tragedy from ever happening again!

Cross posted (with edits) from The Mom Experience

Image of Newtown ribbon, compliments of NH Labor News, via Democratic Underground

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I retired from the University of Notre Dame in the Office of Information Technology in 2010. I'm divorced, with two grown children and 8 grandchildren. I'm a lifelong liberal and a "nonbeliever."