(Cover Photo Source: Rachel Denny Clow/Corpus Christi Caller-Times via AP)
With all the recent mass shootings, the rest of the world has been shocked. But for Americans, while it is shocking, at the same time it is not as surprising. In fact, with so many mass shootings, it is desensitizing. Instead of being horrified at the gun violence, it becomes a normal occurrence that does not garner as much reaction. A shooting would happen, get media coverage, and then get pushed aside for the next one.
My generation, Z, grew up on smart phones and mass shootings. From elementary to high school, American students practice active shooter drills. I hid in classrooms, lecture halls, and cafeterias, covering my head and forcing myself to be as small as possible. Teachers would separate their students into groups in case a shooter got in to minimize the number of murders. Then we would sit in silence in the dark. While it may be normal to have a bit of chatter in a classroom when a teacher says to be silent, during drills we never made a peep.
These drills are desensitizing. Every semester we would have a drill. It would be blocked out in the schedule, and we would be notified ahead of time just like fire or weather drills.
It became a commonality, and things that should not be normalized were. For example, in a “hard” lockdown where a shooter is inside the building, under no circumstances could anyone open the classroom door. Even if we heard students begging for help, we would not be allowed to open the door because the teachers have to protect as many students as possible. Despite the unimaginable choice of not saving one or two students, the biggest number of students always come first.
But this is what it is like in the United States. Any time I had these drills, a small part of my mind would wonder what I would actually do in an active shooter event.
Would I cry? Would I see other people cry? Would an active shooter come into my classroom and kill me? Would I paint myself in other students’ blood as camouflage? Would I fight using my active shooter training I had done? Would I go home to my family at the end of the day?
I would worry about this, and when schools did their annual survey about student support and safety, I could not circle the “strongly agree” option on “I feel safe at school.”
I looked forward to graduating high school. Besides the obvious graduation and going to college, I was relieved that I would not have to worry about being murdered at school, a place I am supposed to feel safe at. However, the worry and fear did not go away at all. Rather the questions I think about now are changed.
Can I go to a parade? Where are the exits in this movie theater? Can I walk out of a grocery store? Is the person next to be about to open fire? Are they stationing more armed policemen here? Could I go to a club at night and get out safely in the dark if something happened?
While these questions do not constantly circulate in my mind, I do have them, and I do not think I should have to think about them. My international friends are horrified at the whole situation and that I even have these concerns, but my American friends are not surprised.
I know the world is not perfectly safe and never will be, but this is not an unsolvable problem. And it is not something that I or anyone else should be okay normalizing. The fact that people outside of the United States are horrified says that this is not normal and should never be normal. It is extremely disturbing that this is what my generation and future generations are growing up with when it should not be. No student should have to practice hiding under desks in case their life depends on it, because one day a shooter who easily got ahold of a semi automatic decided to commit mass murder.