A Poem About School Shootings: Through a Child's Eyes
My heart weeps molten tears for those I only know by name
For the fear my children bring home to me asking me the same.
“Did the bad guy get caught, how old were the people who died?
How did the bad guy manage to get all the way inside?
He was one of them, he was one of us
He looked so normal and then did this
Mommy, why was our school locked today?
They pulled all the blinds and took our light away
The teacher yelled for us to sit and be still
I’ve never heard her raise her voice this year ‘til
She told us to shut up and placed her hands to her head
We heard in the halls that day 5 had been shot, 1 already dead
The bomb in our school never was to be seen
But the kids were taken home all day except me
My friends all left with their siblings, my teacher acted so brave
Mommy, what happens if I get shot at school the next day?
Will they put me on tv and show everyone my picture?
Will they speak of my A’s how I was a left-handed pitcher?
Will I be called a good girl and will my sisters cry
Mommy, I just don’t get it – all this hurt – why?
You’re crying now I’m sorry I just wanted to ask
I need to know I can feel safe tomorrow when I go to class
I heard on the news two for a total of 3 have now died,
Mommy please tell me how did the bad guy get inside?”
How do you explain to your children that THIS is the face of the "bad guy"?
I wrote the above poem about the Chardon High School shootings that took place in Chardon, Ohio on February 27, 2012. I was incredibly emotional over the news of the senseless violence aimed at high school students. The tragedy unfolded slowly as those who were injured passed away one at a time over a span of a couple days. The shooting occurred in a neighborhood not too far from home - a good upperclass neighborhood much like my own. As I always do when these events occur - I thought about my own children sitting in their schools - presumably safe and sound. I cried a little for the families waiting to hear if their children would survive and I posted a few inspirational pins on Pinterest to show my support for the community. It was requested for viewers to do so through a local news station. Once my own children (daughters ages 6, 7, and 11) arrived home I switched off the news and I didn't tell them about the shootings. I really didn't think it would touch their young lives and why scare them? BOY WAS I WRONG?
The day after the Chardon High School shooting I was at my computer reading Hubs and waiting another 30 minutes to go to my youngest daughter's school to volunteer. The phone rang and it was the automated call system the school uses to mass-inform parents of something at the school. The recorded voice was my oldest daughter's school principal informing parents that a bomb threat had been called in to the high school - all students had been evacuated safely and all other schools in the district had been locked down for the students' safety. Instantly I feared for my daughter because her school is located beside the high school. The principal encouraged parents NOT to pick up students so the school day could progress as normal for the children. Five minutes later I got another call from another school where my middle daughter attends. A repeat from the first message. Okay - breathe deep and don't panic. I decided to get ready to go to my youngest daughter's school to volunteer when the phone rang again. This time it was the principal making the call from the baby's school. Same message, same urging parents to leave the students to finish off the day. I wiped my eyes, put on my brave face, and went to my youngest daughter's school. At least I would get a better feel from there when I showed up to volunteer. It was refreshing to hear all the tiny giggles and footsteps in the building once I arrived. The teachers did appear to be a little more tense and the principal was conducting patrols of all the halls but overall everything seemed "normal".
School should be a safe place for children
I finished up my time at the preschool / kindergarten building and rushed home before my oldest daughter got off the school bus. I wanted to be available to talk in case she had any questions. I was not prepared for her reaction. You see - my daughter's class is outside in a trailer to make extra room for students because another building closed last year. So she saw all the commotion at the high school 'perfectly'. She watched all the students file out of the building and accumulate in the parking lot by her trailer. She watched as fire and police and bomb units arrived on scene to search the building. Then she saw her teacher fly into a blur of colors as she hung up her cell phone, raced to close the window blinds and jammed the lock on the door. The teacher had to shout over the confused students to regain control. My daughter had heard about the Chardon High School shootings in the hall earlier in the day - all the students were talking about it. So she immediately thought a shooter was loose in her school.
When she got home she was still a little shocked and asked me why I didn't come for her when all her other friends were leaving. I had to explain that most of the students picked up also had brothers or sisters in the high school and the parents were already there. Then my daughter started to ask questions about the bomb threat. How could she feel safe now? What if there was a bomb tomorrow? What if someone showed up to her school with a gun? What would happen if she got shot at school? Why did a high school kid shoot other high school kids? Why did those kids have to die? It was sad for me to see my daughter so scared and not be able to help her feel safer when I knew I would send her off to school again the next day.
If I only ever get one chance to get one message across to anyone ever again, I hope for all to know just how terrifying these bomb threat pranks are to young children. The bomb threat doesn't just let high schoolers have the day off - it places terror into the hearts of all the other students who have to go back to that school the next day. It really does some damage to their little minds.