"Compromise where you can. Where you can't, don't. Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right. Even if the whole world is telling you to move, it is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye, and say 'No, you move'."--Sharon Carter, Captain America: Civil War
When I was a fifteen year old sophomore at Ballard High School, there was a shooting. It was a nice, warm spring afternoon, blue sky, and the classrooms had their windows open. I believe I was in my English class. We heard the gunshots coming from outside but couldn't tell where exactly they had come from. *Pop pop pop pop pop* We all stopped and looked around, confused, trying to figure out what had happened. None of us had ever heard gunshots before, except in the movies or on tv, but we knew it had been a gun. One of our classmates had left a short time earlier to use the restroom and it became an obsession for us that she return as quickly as possible. When she came back, we breathed a sigh of relief because we were all accounted for. The door remained shut and we all stayed where we were. This was before the time of lockdowns, so every teacher just had to fend for themselves.
At the end of the day, we were allowed to go, but one part of the outside area of the school was cordoned off by the police, and school buses were being rerouted away from it. It turned out that there had been a drive-by shooting and one of the girls outside the school had been shot and killed.
The girl had been in my history class. It was surreal to have seen her that day in class, but then to not have her there the next day. Or the day after that. Or the day after that. There were no grief counselors, because there was no protocol for this. We just did our best to get through it. For me, it set off a severe depression that lasted about a year. I lost weight. I couldn't sleep. I didn't know what was going on, except thinking I was losing my mind. I hadn't been hurt. I was safe. I got through it. Except of course, I hadn't. And I wasn't safe. And I might not have been physically hurt, but I had been emotionally and mentally hurt.
Young people aren't supposed to die. We're supposed to be immortal. We don't get shot and die. Except that they do. My classmate did. She was there one day, and dead by the end of the day. And then she wasn't there the next day. Or the next. Or the next.
While I never experienced a school shooting inside the school walls, I have experienced the loss of a classmate to gun violence. I heard the shots that took her life. And while it might have been a person pulling the trigger, it was definitely a gun that killed her. I know a little of the pain that students experience from school shootings. I know what it is to contemplate your mortality at the age of fifteen. I know the existential crisis it throws you into, and the depression, and not knowing what to do about it. I know that feeling that nothing matters because it's all a waste. I am thirty nine years old and I can put myself right back into those feelings. I feel fear and frustration and anger creeping up inside me right now as I type this post. Like any grief or trauma we may experience in life, we never truly get over it. We just learn how to live with it. It becomes a part of who we are. The scars that make up our lives.
This is the lens through which I see every mass shooting. This is why I support gun control measures. This is why I will always hate guns. This is why I am saying that enough is enough. Because nobody should have to experience that pain or depression or trauma. I am tired of a nation that worships metal idols that demand daily human sacrifices. Enough is enough.
Like the #MeToo movement, a lot of us have a story to tell about gun violence. I think it's time we started telling it to everybody. Most of us have scars due to gun violence, and it's time to stop covering them up and pretending they don't exist. It's time to expose them for all the world to see. I would encourage everybody to tell your story. Tweet it, blog it, put it on tumblr, post it to Facebook. Tell people in person. Anybody and everybody who will listen. Because I don't know about you, but I'm tired of having to relive this pain with every mass shooting. So, I am owning my pain, and utilizing it as my part in this fight. Never again. We're done. Enough is enough.