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NYT article about School Walkout day: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/14/us/school-walkout.html

 

Chicago Tribune article about Northwestern hoax:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-met-northwestern-university-shots-fired-evanston-20180314-story.html

 

Why don’t we take school shootings seriously anymore?

 

At 10 a.m. on the morning of March 14th, high school and college students across the U.S. marched out of class by the hundreds to take a stand against our country’s persisting school shooting crisis. This nation-wide demonstration marked one of the first student-led movements against gun violence, following the recent tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

 

And yet, that same day, just hours after Northwestern University students had led their own school walk-out, an unidentified caller contacted Evanston police claiming that he had shot his girlfriend at Engelhart Hall, west of the university’s main campus. At 2:30 p.m., a campus-wide alert was issued, warning all students and faculty to “remain behind locked doors.” Upon searching the building and the surrounding campus, police issued an all-clear around 4:30pm after no evidence of a victim or weapon was found. Authorities deemed it an incident of “swatting,” when an anonymous caller will deliberately report a false crime in order to draw a large police response.

 

I reached out to two of my friends who were on campus at the time of the lock-down and asked them what their experiences of the situation had been.

 

Robert: “The reality of it started setting in when I heard through the grapevine that there was a dead student on campus. We had been sitting in the basement dining hall of our dorm when the lockdown was issued, and we were instructed to stay put and wait with the kitchen staff. That’s when it started setting in for me. People started sobbing and calling their families to tell them they loved them. And that’s when I started thinking that someone I know or even a friend of mine could die today. Nothing remotely like this situation had ever occurred to me in the past, not here, not at Northwestern of all places, not in my life. It was just two hours of chaos and confusion, where we were kind of just living in this crisis – and it didn’t even end up being a crisis – but we suffered the emotional consequences. It was just so surreal.”

 

Meredith: “I was in the dining area of our Student Center with probably a hundred other people in the room, when I saw the email alert on my phone. Within minutes, swarms of people were running down into the basement and the employees led us downstairs to a locked and safe area. That’s when I saw people breaking down and crying and having anxiety attacks. I remember I immediately called my mom to let her know what was happening and that I was safe. It was very intense, and upsetting, and traumatic. It’s sort of invalidating that nothing actually happened and it’s frustrating that people are writing it off because of that. In the moment, it was very real. We all thought a student on campus was dead, and that someone was walking around campus with a gun, ready to hurt people.”

 

As a high-school student, I remember observing my peers scrolling through their Instagram feeds during active-shooter lockdown drills. Classmates would routinely joke about calling in a false bomb threat to get out of their Spanish exams that day. It is easy to feign complacency and make light of gun violence and school shootings when have not been personally affected by it. The problem with this mentality is that complacency stalls the progress of social and political reform. National School Walk-out Day was organized in order to end this very kind of complacency among lawmakers, as well as the public.

 

In choosing to falsely report a shooting on university property, the anonymous caller not only caused a university-wide lockdown, and wasted police and taxpayer resources, but more importantly, he disrespected gun-violence victims and their families. We need to face an uncomfortable reality and put ourselves in the shoes of the victims of Columbine and the 2018 Florida school shooting. As students, and have the power to take a stand against gun violence.

 

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