Eighteen shooting incidents on school grounds in 44 days. That is 18 too many.
In the days following the shooting at Stoneman Douglas that took the lives of 14 students and three staff members, I watched as my news feeds once again populated with stories. Stories about how they were heroes. Stories about how they were loved by their communities. Stories about how they were the latest victims of gun violence.
And then of course, there were the “heartfelt” messages from public officials who sent their sincerest thoughts and prayers to the Parkland community and the families who lost loved ones.
But it was all too familiar, almost routine.
Strip the stories and messages of condolences of their identifiers. You might think you’re reading something about the Las Vegas shooting in Oct. 2016, the Orlando shooting in Sept. 2016, or one of the countless other horrific instances of gun violence. Isn’t there something wrong with this picture?
This Parkland shooting brought out this feeling of frustration and anger that I never experienced before.
This isn’t to say that previous school shootings hadn’t upset me. The truth was that they did but at the time, I didn’t know much about what can be done. I’m older now, much more attune to what is happening and not happening. Right now, gun control is not happening.
Twelve days later, I received a text message from my sister. “Dumont High School is on lockdown.”
The words unnerved me and I sat there frozen for a moment thinking about the hallways that I once walked through. The classrooms that I once sat in. The students. The teachers. The staff. In a split second, the idea of my town being the next town to fall victim to gun violence ran through my head.
I opened Facebook and expectedly, found a dedicated post in the Dumont page.
“Just heard about 7-8 police cars at the high school. Anyone know what's going on?”
The comments section pieced together the story for me, later confirmed by multiple regional news outlets.
At 11:50 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 26, Dumont High School went on lockdown after a 15-year-old sophomore made a threat on social media. Almost immediately, law enforcement from neighboring towns and Bergen County SWAT swarmed New Milford Ave., redirecting traffic as anxious parents waited outside the school. Helicopters swarmed overhead and news vans lined the streets. More than three hours later, the lockdown ended and the students reunited with their parents. Top of Form
This happened in my town, where I grew up. It’s something that is becoming all too normal for anyone’s comfort levels and it’s not just happening at schools.
For many young people, the Parkland shooting was the last straw that gave birth to the #StudentsStandUp movement. But it’s hard to understand what the movement means without experiencing that same fear that comes with the threat of violence. The threat at Dumont High School made me realize what it meant.
This movement is not about taking sides. It’s not about choosing political alliances or throwing the blame on someone for not doing something. And it’s certainly not about arming our teachers, which would only add more problems to the mix.
We will never make progress as a society, as a nation and as a world if we keep questioning the past.
The time to act is now. The time to have these conversations is now. The time for change is now. Our devastation, fear, anger and frustration can be the fuel to our fire that helps us make a difference this nation desperately needs to see happen.
And a word of advice to the man in the Oval Office: focus on what can be done now to create a better tomorrow.