A Student’s POV: Congress finally knows what it feels like to hide from an active shooter
February 8, 2021
Trigger Warning: Discussion of school shootings and gun violence.
I don’t remember the first time I sat in the corner of a classroom and waited for the police to pound on the door to let us know we were safe. I remember the lollipops they gave us to keep us quiet, and the video the district required us to watch. I remember knowing that someday a person could break into my school and open fire. Even sitting at home on a Webex call, I can bring to mind all the moments I have sat in the dark and waited. Knees tucked up to my chin, dirt gathering in the folds of my jeans from the floor, phone held close in front of my face. The pounding on the door, and the relief when the door opens and it really is just the police. I remember not being afraid until they stopped giving out the lollipops一when they deemed us old enough to keep our mouths shut on our own一and then understanding that it wouldn’t always be a drill.
Then the fear came and stayed. The drills and the fear became routine. Lockdown drills became a time to take a break from homework, fiddle with a game on your phone, play footsie with your best friend. But the second you look up and register the 30 kids huddled in the corner in the dark, it becomes impossible to ignore the reason why you are there. Someone may be coming for you with a gun, and there’s a pit deep in your stomach – you remember that your siblings are somewhere in the building. You think: what will I do when they break open the door? I might have a chance if I lay on the floor and pretend to be dead. Then again, I might get shot anyways.
American students have known this since preschool, and we live it every day we are on campus. I cannot remember a time in my life when I didn’t know I could get shot down in the place I go to learn everyday.
The people in Congress have never known that fear. The citizens and lawmakers in our country are good at sending thoughts and prayers, but not making substantial enough change in their mindsets or laws to save our lives. Our walkouts and protests have done nothing. The people in our government still believe that the right to carry a firearm is more important than the lives of their children.
I wonder how the people of Congress feel now. It’s been two weeks since the raid on the Capital, and now they too have crouched on the floor and listened in silence for the sound of bullets. The sound of air breaking, fear fisting around your lungs, and the knowledge that you didn’t tell your mom you loved her that morning. I wonder how they feel now that they have had to run and evacuate because of someone who could have taken their lives with one shot.
They are lucky. Their friends and colleagues lived. But us, America’s students and children, have not been so fortunate. Since 1970 there have been 1,316 school shootings in the United States (Sandy Hook Promise), and not all of us have managed to escape the statistics.
I want to believe that Congress will do something. I want to hope that the experience of hunching under a desk to save your life could convince even money-motivated politicians to change their minds about what will really make change.
I want to believe that. Our lives depend on it.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.