This week, the new Enterprise editor, Kyle, and I were invited to attend an active shooter education class at Hamilton Hospital. It was definitely an eye opening experience to say the least. It’s crazy to think that these types of seminars are necessary, but things have changed so much over the past 20 years and we now apparently live in a world where it’s necessary.
The seminar came on the heels of a picture that began circulating online of a little girl who was only 3 or 4 years old. Her mother caught her in the bathroom standing on top of the toilet seat and snapped a photo, then shared it online when she discovered why the little girl had been there.
You see, it hadn’t been a simple case of the little girl playing or imagining something and climbing up (which you know is completely feasible if you’ve ever had a 4-year-old). No, it was a case where the little girl had previously had to practice active shooter drills at her pre-school and was told that she should lock herself in a stall and keep her feet out of sight if anyone with a gun ever came in.
Let’s just sit here for a moment and think of how crazy that thought is.
I mean, we all know the world has changed. Ever since the senseless shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999 things in “safe” places have never been the same, and it has just continued to get worse. That happened in April 1999 and I graduated in May 1999, a member of possibly the last class to complete an education in a society before everything went completely crazy.
As a mother, that little girl’s picture made for a sobering moment, especially considering that my own little girl may be entering pre-kindergarten in the fall. She’ll be walking into what I truly think is a good, secure and prepared place at Olney Elementary School, but she’ll still be walking into a place where I won’t be able to help her at all times. Instead of just worrying about making sure she’ll have the right supplies and a suitable backpack, we’ll instead worry about someone coming into the school to do major damage. It’s not a fun thought.
She’ll be walking into a world where pre-school students will have to know what grave and mortal danger is and that there are people in the world who might want to hurt them just because they are there. At a time where her biggest concern should be whether there will be a rainbow in the sky after the next storm and how to read, she will instead have to learn as she grows what to do in case someone at school, at the grocery store, in the mall, or just walking down the street starts shooting.
While thinking of this is unnerving, though, there’s a part of me that knows it’s essential. I can look back at my life and see that kids in my generation were mostly sheltered, and I have now been touched by the stories of violence everywhere, no matter how desensitized I thought I had become. It came as a shock to us as well as to many from previous generations, but it won’t to our children.
I hate that it has to happen, but we’ve reached a point where our youngest children must come to know what to do in case of fires and tornadoes, as always, and also during active shooter situations.
I guess if there’s a bright side to this whole thing it has to be a ray of hope for the future even during what we see as a dark time. During the presentation at the hospital, the officer in charge noted that every major shooting event in American history, beginning with the first-ever mass casualty shooter situation at UT Austin in the 1960s, has taught law enforcement about what to do to help keep these situations from happening again. Each one has allowed people to learn more about their fellow man and how to defend themselves in times of disaster. Those lessons, so different from the ones learned by previous generations, are now being taught to the people who will inherit this society one day.
Maybe they will be able to curb the trend toward violence thanks to all they will know. We can only hope and pray that it’s true.