Surreal: bizarre, unusual, freakish, unearthly, dreamlike.
When a school shooting happened at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, 15 people died, including both shooters, and 24 others were wounded. This happened before the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. Columbine was the 9/11 of school safety.
When Sandy Hook happened on December 14, 2012, 20 six- and seven-year-olds died along with six adults. The event brought back our collective memory of Columbine and every other school shooting since then. Surely, many of us thought, the slaughter of young schoolchildren would inspire members of Congress to pass sensible gun control. We were wrong.
In the five years and one and a half months since Sandy Hook, there have been at least 239 school shootings nationwide. This includes the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, 2018. Of the 438 people shot in these events, 138 died. (New York Times, Jugal K. Patel, Feb. 15, 2018, based on statistics from the Gun Violence Archive.)
School shootings happen so regularly now that they’re not surreal anymore. What is surreal is that they continue to happen because Congress will not enact sensible gun control. It’s surreal that lobbyists for gun manufacturers control the national debate about assault weapons and measures to keep mentally ill people from purchasing weapons. It’s surreal that we let them paralyze us with their mantra – “That wouldn’t have prevented this tragedy and that won’t solve the problem.”
Frequent school shootings have become a reality for our country, a horror to which we are in danger of growing numb. Go to gunviolencearchive.org and scroll through the pages of school shootings nationwide in the first month and a half of 2018. Parents send their kids to school and keep their fingers crossed that they’ll come home alive at the end of the day. We cry, send thoughts, offer prayers, and then wait for the next school shooting. This is beyond surreal. It’s a nightmare.
©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2018.