Too Close to Home

            The night of Thursday, October 4th, I eagerly entered my childhood bedroom in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, excited to sleep in my own bed for the first time in over a month. I was expecting to check my phone and fall asleep peacefully next to my dog.

            When I opened Facebook, however, any notion I had of sleeping that night left me immediately. The first post I saw was from a family friend back home, currently a junior in high school. At first, it appeared to be a typical political post, an emotional blog about the government’s lack of action to make schools safe from gun violence. This confused me, because this friend had never posted anything political online in the past. As I skimmed through the long message, I came across a phrase that physically pained my heart. “Today, someone decided to pull a gun on another student in a school bathroom.”

            How does one react to these words? How can one react to these words? As people often say, you never think something of this sort can happen in your town, in your school, until it does. Until it hits too close to home. Until a news story becomes your own life. Cherry Hill is a large suburb outside Philadelphia with a relatively middle-class community. Our public high schools are known to be some of the best in the area. Yet, evidently, they lack sufficient security.

            Although I did not attend this high school, it is literally a mile from my house and many of my family friends are still there. Apart from that, the school happens to be located adjacent to a hospital, in which my sister was working that same day. Thankfully, nobody was harmed. The student was able to escape from the gunman and get help. After a teacher called 911, the rest of the student body was put into immediate lockdown. Reasonably, the students believed it to be a simple drill until they began to receive outside information on the incident. Eventually, the police found the suspect unarmed and later recovered the gun. When the school bell rang at the end of the day, the students were released to go home, grateful to hug their parents, grateful they were able to come home alive that day.

            But where does one go from here? How do students process the incident and the feelings that arose as they anxiously waited on the floors of classrooms they used to consider safe? How do they wake up the next day and return to this place? And furthermore, how do we make a change? How do we ensure that no student is afraid to go to school?

            Unfortunately, I don’t have the answers. Change takes time, pressure, and perseverance. However, I am fully confident that the same generation of kids who have come to fear schools will grow up to be politicians and policy makers who will instill a change in this country.