The Mom Stop: Mourning the loss of safe havens
I am part of the Columbine generation.
I was a senior in high school when the tragic mass shooting took place at Columbine High School, killing 13 people and injuring 20 others in Littleton, Colorado, in 1999. I can remember the shock and sheer terror of the news that day. I came home from school that day and was glued to the news on TV. It was unlike anything we had ever seen before.
I am part of a lucky micro-generation — we spent our childhood largely without the internet at home, but came of age when cellphones, instant messaging and other technology started to take hold. We were the lucky last few to become adults before the existence of social media.
But my generation also grew up in a period of relative peace for the U.S. Sure, we were born during the Cold War, but the Iron Curtain fell while we were still in elementary school. The first Gulf War, too, occurred when we were young.
In my mind, and probably in the minds of many other people, the Columbine shooting and Sept. 11, 2001, stand out as markers in American society. There was life before, and life after. Things wouldn’t be the same.
I’ve read that the generation of high school students today is the first generation to be born post-Columbine, the first to grow up in this period of mass shootings and gun violence. After the Valentine’s Day shooting that killed 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, teenagers across the country are standing up and speaking out against gun violence. Perhaps we need to listen.
Lord knows, if there’s anywhere that our children should be safe, it’s at school.
As a mother, I want to protect my children’s innocence. Sure, we warn them about the dangers of the world to keep them safe. But schools should be safe. Besides their homes, their schools should be a place where students feel most comfortable.
But the last 20 years have shown that that safe haven no longer exists.
After dinner on Feb. 14, I sat my 8-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son down and asked them what they do when there is a “bad guy” drill at their school. I wanted to make sure they are paying attention in these drills and that they take them seriously. You never know when it could save their lives. I was surprised by that my third-grader knew exactly what to do and why. My kindergartner knew the basics, or as much as I guess he should know at his young age.
I wish they didn’t have to know.
During our discussion, I told them — in simple terms — about the shooting that day in Florida. My daughter was concerned and quiet. My son, who had a hard time sleeping that night, started to cry and wanted to know if the “bad guy” had been caught, and how far away Florida was from our home.
These aren’t the conversations I want to have with my children, but unfortunately, they are the ones I have to have. Nearly two decades after Columbine, things should be different. But they’re not.
And that’s something that needs to change.
— Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News in Alabama. Reach her at email@example.com.