There are a few phone calls every parent dreads getting. At about 7:30 a.m. on April 27, I got one of those phone calls. Fortunately, my son had the presence of mind to start with: “Everyone is fine. I’m with Victoria, and we’re in the car far away from the school.” Once I acknowledged that somewhat odd statement, he followed with: “There was a shooting at Thurston this morning.”
I was terrified, shocked, worried, and a little relieved. As much as I hate to admit it, there was a sense of inevitability to the entire thing. Some part of my brain was just waiting for this phone call. And it was so relieved to be getting it from my kid.
I realize that the most important part of this story is that no one was hurt or killed. But that doesn’t mean everyone is okay. Students are scared, parents are terrified, and the administration is doing everything it can to make everything better. But how? How do we go back? How do we make our kids feel safe again?
These students have spent nearly every weekday for the majority of their lives at school. And in one instant, school became the most terrifying place they have ever been. A place they had to flee, running for their lives. It tears me apart, and I know I’m not alone.
I don’t have answers for why this happened, because there really isn’t a “why.” As much as we want to make the world a perfectly orchestrated stage, it’s not. Sometimes, terrible things happen, and we’ll never know why.
The only thing I can tell these kids is that it shouldn’t have happened, and you have every reason to be scared. Despite what online trolls might have to say, being terrified is the appropriate response to a terrifying situation. And whatever the outcome, you were legitimately afraid for your lives. Something like that can’t just go away.
If I knew how to fix this, I would. If I knew how to guarantee your safety at school, I would. I believe strongly that access to guns is a big part of the problem. But this isn’t about politics. The problem, and the reason we can’t guarantee your safety, is that we are too stubborn, too unwilling to budge an inch on our own beliefs, to make even your life our priority. We suck. We really, really suck. And on behalf of every adult in this country, I apologize. You deserve better from us.
We shouldn’t be talking to gun rights advocates or gun control advocates about your safety. Period. The opinions from either side mean nothing. Or at least, they should mean nothing. We should be talking to, and more importantly, listening to, mental health professionals, law enforcement professionals, teachers and administrators, and most importantly, YOU. Why aren’t we asking you what you need? As we already covered, we suck. That’s why.
I not only hope, but truly believe, from everything I have seen, that your generation has a chance to get it right. You seem to be intelligent enough to know how much you don’t know, you seem to care about issues that affect human beings more than political affiliations, and you seem to be willing to listen to and learn from one another. We adults, as a population, can’t seem to do any of that. We need to be right more than we need to keep you safe.
While I can’t promise you will be safe, I can promise that the shooting is something you can overcome and live with. It will always be a part of you, but that doesn’t have to be a terrible thing. It can make you more compassionate, more empathetic, and more determined to do it right when you take over.
There have been many individual exceptions to the rule (of us sucking), and so many amazing adults stepped up to help, both during and after the shooting. We may suck at being a group, but as individuals, we can still be pretty awesome. And there are many, many individuals who want to listen and care. We don’t have answers, but we have humanity, and love for you.
North Thurston will be stronger and better than ever because I know enough of these amazing adults occupy that school. And just as important, YOU occupy that school. I know enough of you, some since kindergarten, to know that you are strong, brilliant, compassionate, and endlessly entertaining. You will make each other stronger, and you will make your school, and every other school, a better, safer place.
We suck. You don’t have to.