Yesterday morning started off as a typical sunny winters day as I kissed my preschooler goodbye and headed off to my job as an elementary teacher.
At 10:15 a.m., I received the first "breaking news" alert on my iPhone reporting a possible shooting at an elementary school in CT. My first thoughts were: oh here we go again, another disgruntled domestic incident being played out at school, and I prayed no children or even adults were killed. It wasn't even a half hour later when the alert was updated to "confirmed dead" and referenced children as victims. As a teacher, and a fellow eductaor of young children, the world stopped. There wasn't one teacher by the end of lunch time, who hadn't followed up online or via a smart phone and there wasn't one teacher amongst me who had a dry eye. Having spent the last 24 hours following the news, and reading thoughts and comments from friends all over the country on Twitter and Facebook, I felt the need to use my blog this week to reflect...and question.
We feel safe everyday in our building, as our doors are locked and a similar buzzer system is used for security purposes all day. But in this case, the gunman shot his way into the building. The fear I feel for schools across the country at this point is beyond surreal. Schools across the country have worked so hard to increase security measures and keep students and employees safe, but what's next? Bullet proof glass? Armed police officer in the building all day? For years after Columbine we spent so much time adapting and adopting safety procedures and taking precautions to protect our schools, but now it seems even those procedures and precautions can be thrown to the wind. When firearms are involved, what is to prevent another incident of someone shooting their way into the school?
There is a lot of talk about gun control more now than ever. I'm all for gun control, but in this case, as in many others, the weapons were not even owned by the shooter, rather obtained by his own mother. A background check on her application to own a firearm would've cleared, Adam Lanza's wouldn't have. Do we need to make the background check more extensive now? If you have a family member with a documented mental illness, are you now not eligible to own a gun? Would that help prevent more incidents? Every state is different - maybe all states need to adopt the same or similar procedures. Remember what happened at that movie theater in CO? That shooter also had a documented history of mental illness, but was able to obtain firearms on his own.
If there is one thing that can come out of this, it should be the discussion about how we need to change how we, as a society, recognize, treat and monitor those we know with mental illnesses. The same can be said about so many other shooters in the past, if there was one thing they had in common, was a "history of mental illness" or "personality disorders." What steps can we take to ensure that those who do suffer, are kept safe not just from themselves, but from others. If you are suffering from a severe illness that requires medical treatment, it becomes a priority to you, your family, and even your employer. But what about suffering from a mental illness? Should that also be equally monitored and treated?
When I grew up in Springfield, a family friend and at the time, Harvard student, who also had a history of "personality disorder" snapped one day, and went on a murderous rampage through our small town, killing people with a machete that was a family members keepsake. I will never forget it. My father was on the police force at the time, and also the mayor. There were a lot of questions even then....here we are over 15 years later and we still have to ask ourselves how we can make changes to avoid these scenes in the future.
Should we continue to let history repeat itself? What changes can we make as a society and government to prevent these incidents from happening again. This past year has been the most violent ever. So many public shootings in so many public places. Now at this most joyous time of year, we are suffering as an entire country at the loss of such young lives who had their futures taken away from them. Our hearts are broken, again, and again, our children will ask questions about "how" and "why."
As I sit here thinking about how my son will start Kindergarten here in Bridgewater next year, and pregnant with our second son, I wish for their future that the questions we all have now, will find answers.