Around Halloween, there are lots of scary stories being shared. It can be fun to feel scared, especially when we know that it’s not real. But there are real terrors in the world. Some people live in fear every day from the horrible things that happen.
I was recently confronted by one of my fears. I live in the United States, a country full of gun violence. It’s too easy for anyone to access very dangerous and deadly weapons so this violence can happen anywhere–with devastating results.
My mom (and many other members of my family) works as a school teacher. She texted me the other morning because her school was on an emergency hard lockdown. She had one message she wanted to get out: “I love you all.” I was frantically searching the internet for news about a shooting or a gunman in her area while I waited to find out what would happen. It turned out to be a drill that the school had forgotten to tell the staff about, but it was enough to leave both me and my mother shaken.
There was a near-miss when I was in school only a few weeks after the Columbine shooting. I was homeschooled, but I still went to the local school (a combination elementary, junior high, and high school on a single campus–it was a small town!) for extracurricular activities. On this particular day, I was in the high school band practice. The police had reason to believe that a gunman might be coming to the school, so they’d told staff to send students home. Those who couldn’t leave campus could shelter in the library, but they didn’t have room to put everyone on lockdown. I waited, terrified, standing in the parking lot until my dad came to pick me up, while rumors circulated about the gunman. I went home where I thought I was safe–but the gunman, who didn’t come to the school, was arrested less than a mile from my house. Fortunately, he surrendered to police without incident. But I was still scared to go back to school, and after that year, I stopped going there.
Just this past summer, the Gilroy Garlic Festival–a family event that takes place close to where I lived at the time–was the site of a mass shooting. It’s not the only shooting that has been in my community this year, but it was the one big enough to make the national news. Fortunately, none of my family or friends were at the Garlic Festival at the time of the attack, but it could have easily affected someone I know.
Since I’ve moved, my new town has recently decided that police officers shall carry patrol rifles as they monitor public events. I just moved here, so I don’t know how great the threat is in this area for an attack to occur at a public event. Now I feel nervous about going to local activities like the upcoming Oktoberfest because I will see armed cops patrolling. I’m lucky that I do not belong to a demographic that is usually targeted by police brutality, but I know it will make other people in my community feel even more afraid. Giving more guns to cops isn’t going to solve the underlying issues that lead to so much violence in this country.
I hope that you and your loved ones are safe. I hope we can come together as a society and finally create some sensible gun control in this country. There are too many dead, too many grieving families, to ignore this problem anymore. Teachers and students shouldn’t be afraid to go to school. I shouldn’t have to worry about my family members who are educators like they’re in a war zone.
But I’m grateful that this time, for my mom, it was a false alarm.