“Somebody’s shooting on campus!”
The words ripped my concentration away from my laptop screen. Our law school classroom fell silent. “What should we do?” I asked our professor. 그는 말했다: "잘, if I were you, I’d run.” I paused to type “There’s a shooter” in a chat box to my husband Aaron before slamming my laptop shut.
I took refuge between stacks in the law library until police said it was safe to leave, hours later. When I walked out of the law school, I heard loud rumbling above me and looked up to see news helicopters circling overhead against a cold, gray sky. Some kind of war had been waged on our campus, and the air was heavy with it. I was going home to my family, but the flashing lights of police cars and ambulances suggested others weren’t.
Surviving a school shooting was an initiation of evil. The world didn’t look or feel the same afterward. Its colors were less vivid, and any sense of peace and security that once surrounded me was gone. I knew I’d never exist with quite the same ease again.
The trauma of what’s since become known as the Northern Illinois University “Valentine’s Day Massacre” has never left me. More than a decade later, I can still recall the terror of that day with precise, photographic dread. But I’m no longer a 24-year-old student; I’m a 37-year-old mother of three. Despite 12 years and countless other mass shooting incidents across the country, not much has been done by our federal legislators to make anyone safer from gun violence anywhere – let alone at school.
I assumed the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary shooting would be the wake-up call our country needed to act on gun violence. Multiple school shootings had taken place since the one I experienced in 2008, yet Sandy Hook was the first to invade my consciousness as a mother.
I clutched my eight-month-old son to my chest as the precious faces of young children murdered at school cycled across my television screen on the evening news. As tears streamed down my face, my mind tried to reconcile the fact that the victims in these manmade tragedies were no longer limited to teenagers and college students.
Little kids were new casualties in our country’s ongoing struggle to define itself. Its endless argument over guns appeared to be a symptom of a national identity crisis between political polar opposites – two parties so ideologically opposed that even the needless deaths of tiny innocents couldn’t bridge the divide between them.
What sickened me most, 그러나, wasn’t our government’s failure to prioritize people over partisanship. It was knowing that there were parents who took their kids to school and returned home eternally empty-handed. My stomach churned over whether their children might have experienced some iteration or degree of what I remembered from the NIU shooting: the hell, helplessness and panic of staring at a doorway, wondering if a person on the other side was about to end my life.
The only thing worse than knowing those feelings first-hand was wondering how many more children might one day know them, 너무.
So far, hundreds of thousands of American students have been exposed to school shootings, and these incidents have increased in recent years. The human cost of school shootings extends beyond those who are injured or die, negatively affecting the mental health of survivors. According to a 2019 Stanford University 연구, “local exposure to fatal school shootings increased antidepressant use among youths”.
Yet children are not the only ones suffering from this epidemic. Parents are also struggling.
Survivors of school shootings like me are now raising kids of their own, worrying they will suffer similar fates. Although the psychological effects of school shootings on parents may not yet be fully known or understood, 연구 suggests that those with loved ones who have been exposed to “assaultive violence” have a higher risk of mental health disorders. 다른 연구 found that parents of terrorist survivors were five times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress and three times more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression than the population at large. (Mass shootings can be classified as acts of terrorism in many cases.)
Like spouses of military veterans, parents of school shooting survivors might also be more susceptible to secondary traumatic stress, especially if they experienced a school shooting themselves or have a history of past trauma. But school shootings may pose mental health risks to all parents, not just those whose children are victims or survivors. One 연구 concluded that acts of terrorism can have detrimental emotional impacts on general populations.
School shootings don’t just deprive children of their lives and innocence; they deprive parents of a sense of safety and security their parents and grandparents took for granted. The sanctity and sanctuary of school are long gone. This reality is a painful part of our collective consciousness. We send our kids to school, hoping the horror of gun violence won’t happen there, but knowing no child or school is immune.
Carrying this mental load may be commonplace for modern parents, but it doesn’t have to be. Biden recently took executive action to address gun violence, and although Americans are divided on gun policy, strong bipartisan support exists for expanded background checks and preventing the mentally ill from obtaining guns. Measures like these, limiting who has access to firearms, have proven more effective in reducing gun-related deaths than limiting access to specific types of firearms.
Precious time has been wasted on political finger-pointing and partisan talking points, particularly when leftists and conservatives have each historically supported and opposed gun control (albeit for morally divergent reasons). Both sides seem content to debate the second amendment and the founders’ intent until they run out of breath. But in the meantime, Congress must come together, in earnest, to find common ground and common-sense solutions to stop this bleeding. 그만큼 consequences of inaction have become too high – and our kids are counting on them.