Afraid to Go to School: Reflections on Gun Violence From an 8-Year-Old

“I am afraid to go back to school tomorrow,” says my 8-year-old daughter after being home for spring break for two weeks. “Why, honey,” I ask. “Because I am afraid we are going to have a lock-down. And I am afraid that someone is going to come into our school with a gun and start shooting. And mom, you know that anyone, really, can just walk into our school, any kid for sure. And the windows in our classroom aren’t bulletproof, you know, and we have shades on our windows but there is a little crack in one so someone could for sure see in and shoot us all. Mom, why do people even buy guns? What do they need them for? I don’t really feel safe anywhere cause there are lots of crazy people who have guns and shoot people.”

It was hard for me to even find the words to respond. I told her that the adults in the school would keep her and her classmates safe and that she need not worry. And that they need to have lock-downs because they need to make sure that everyone knows what to do if something happens. “Can you please just homeschool me,” she pleaded. “Honey, you are safe at school. Really, you are,” I responded trying to sound as convincing as I could. But the truth is, as much as we want to believe this, we don’t this to be a fact. The families at Sandy Hook thought their kids were safe. And they should have been. Because school should be a safe place for our kids. (This is not always the case for children/schools in war-torn countries, but America…is this really too much to expect?) Children reach a certain age when they  start to make some difficult connections: there are school fire drills because a fire could actually happen, and subsequently, they understand that there are lock-down drills because some lunatic could enter their school and start firing away.

And this is the visual that is keeping my 8-year-old  up at night. What a sad reflection on our society.

“Honey, you need to go to sleep, it’s late,” I try to soothe her. “But when I close my eyes, I see scary things,” she says. “When you close your eyes, just picture the sun in the sky, the bright, happy sunshine,” I say. “That’s just what I was thinking, Mom, that I will try to see the sun with my eyes closed,” she says as she starts to relax. I stayed with her until her breathing became more steady and she drifted into what I hope would be a peaceful sleep. As I reluctantly pulled away from her, I whispered in her ear that I love her and will always do whatever I can to keep her safe.

Please keep her safe. Please keep all of our children safe.

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