This is America.
The land of the free. The Patriots. The world police, the justice purveyors, the leaders of the free world, liberator of women, progressive self-starters fulfilling the American dream by mowing down kids.
This is where I live.
This is where my dad moved to for the economic opportunities. Where he worked and met my mother and fell in love. Where I had my first steps and thoughts and prayers. It’s where I babysat a boy named James in August the week before he was about to start first grade. Where I read his school list and helped him pack his little backpack.
I was 16. He was 6.
He asked me if I went to Sandy Hook School, too, but he didn’t understand the concept of high school.
At the time my plan was to become an English teacher after college. I tried to teach him how to read. Then I went home.
But on a Friday my junior year of high school, I had a math test during last period. But I didn’t take it.
I sat in lockdown for hours.
It was December 14, 2012. The day a man walked into Sandy Hook School and shot and killed 20 kids and 6 teachers. He had guns. He shot himself an entrance into the school. He killed people and then himself.
Now more and more children keep dying and we don’t do anything. Kids are shot on Valentine’s Day and run out of the school holding flowers with blood on their clothes.
Six-year-olds don’t get to learn how to read.
Or have their first kiss. Or learn what they favorite genre of music is. Find their favorite movie. Go on their first date. Learn how to ride a bike. Grow up. Teenagers don’t get to go on Valentine’s dates. Learn to drive. Go to prom. Graduate. Go to college. Discover their passion.
Now, six years after James was murdered, I still get anxiety in classrooms. I have plans for what to do when, not if, a shooter walks into the classroom. I have an escape route planned. When the anxiety is really bad, I shudder when someone reaches into their backpack.
Until our country realizes how idiotic it’s being, it’s my reality.
It’s elementary, middle and high school kids’ realities. It’s adult’s realities as workplaces get more dangerous and they wonder whether they should send their kids to school. It’s the blood on the ground and the guns in their hands.
This is what America has made my life.