Two days after the Parkland, Fl., school shooting, my best friend, Shea, had plans to board a plane and fly two hours away that would save her approximately a ten and a half hour long drive to visit her childhood friend’s huge college campus (it has over 2,000 acres and an enrollment of 23,847 undergrads. To put this into perspective, MCLA boasts only 105 acres and 1,444 undergrad students).
Shea had been looking forward to this trip for a long time, and she deserved a vacation! I was always so excited for Shea to go on this adventure with her friend and be back in warm weather. She hated the cold and the temperature where she was going to land was going to be 79 degrees: perfect.
Parkland happened only 45 days into 2018. I found myself saying things like “be safe, make sure you’re aware of your surroundings at all times” and “know where all your exits are” instead of telling her things like “have fun, I’m so excited for you,” and “enjoy your flight.” It was heartbreaking to see how my excitement for Shea had flipped into worrying about her safety in such a small amount of time.
I woke up at 2:30 a.m. in order to talk to Shea before she left for the airport, only to get a text message twelve minutes later telling me the flight was changed, which made me uneasy. She told me she was waking up at 6:15 to be at the airport for 7:00 a.m., I was still nervous about her getting on the plane all by herself, and didn’t care about how many hours of sleep I was losing to make sure she was okay. Her and I Snapchatted up until the plane took off and getting the text message saying she was in North Carolina was pure relief. It saddened me that I was relieved she got there safely rather than excited for her to begin her adventure.
When are we going to be able to feel safe again? When am I going to be able to be excited about going away on a trip rather than excited? When are schools going to stop having to run through lockdown drills to ensure their students know the precautions of a likely school shootings? When are people going to feel safe walking on the streets again? What happened to safety? What happened to security? How are students expected to learn in an environment they can’t stay safe in?
Something needs to be done. Violence, especially gun violence, needs to come to an end. Not only do we need to increase gun laws but we need to spread awareness to everyone, especially authority figures about warning signs for these types of behaviors. The majority of the school shootings that have taken place over the years could have been stopped had we only paid attention to the signs right in front of us. Even the Columbine shooters showed clear signs of intent and it took until the shooting took place for it to be recognized that we should have caught on, yes we should have, and yes we could have.
It’s time to wake up and actually do something about this. Sitting around hoping for a change is not going to get us anywhere until we start to make a change. Maybe mental illness is the problem, but if it is why are we not getting these people the help they desperately need before these horrific tragedies happen? How many more innocent children and students have to die before we decide enough is enough? Even the smallest step.