As I sit here writing this, my daughter is safe. She texted me at 5:58 PM to let me know and apologized because she had been in class when I had texted her earlier in the day. I didn’t know what she was talking about, but then again, I did. Of course I did. As soon as I texted back “What happened?” I immediately turned to Google, then Facebook.
“Active shooter UNCC” was my search.
My daughter is a senior at UNC Charlotte. Today was her last day of classes. And as she made her dinner, six students were shot in the building next to the one she had left only a few minutes earlier. Two of them died immediately. Two children who were just in the wrong building. Two kids who were just doing what college kids do. Going to class, worrying about finals, thinking about their future. Two children who didn’t get to say goodbye to anyone. The heartbreak I feel for those families is indescribable. Everyone is telling me they are glad my daughter is okay. Trust me, no one is more relieved than me.
But six kids were shot. Two of them died. In an academic building.
Four students were injured – two are in critical condition – fighting for their lives as the rest of us look on, horrified. How did we come to this?
The school released an emergency alert that told the students to “Run, Hide, Fight.” They all knew what it meant. Run for your lives. Hide if you can. Fight as a last resort. This is a message familiar to teachers. Secure the kids, barricade the room, keep a blunt object at the ready just in case you have to fight, we are told. We didn’t sign up to be soldiers. We didn’t sign our children up to be pawns.
The question is not, “Why does this keep happening?” We know why. There is no question as to why. The question is, “What the hell are we going to do to stop it from happening again?”
I struggle to come up an answer – words that might make a difference – because words won’t make a difference unless they are written into laws and enforced nationwide. And unless we put our differences of opinion aside and have real, rational conversations, we are just waiting for the next tragedy to strike, and everyone knows it won’t be long. It could be my kid. Or yours. I pray it’s no one’s child, but we are all someone’s child.
For all of our sake, it’s time forge a new narrative. Stop running. Stop hiding.