Tuesday. It’s a blue-sky Oregon day when I drop my daughter off at school, the little one. Her older sister is already a half-hour into first period a few miles down the road. Its’s the last week of classes. Out here in Portland we go until mid-June. I drop Lila at the curb, like always, and I channel-surf the radio as I’m pulling away. Halfway down the row of my radio presets, the newsman is reporting an active shooter. It’s live. It’s local. It’s obviously a school.
He says: “Cops rush to the scene from all directions.” He says: “LifeFlight helicopter circles above the building.” He says: “Active shooter.” But he doesn’t say where. Where?
And I pray: Please, not my kid’s school. Please, not my kid’s school. Please, not my kid’s school.
There’s a split-second relief when he says the name, Reynolds High School. Not my kid’s school. She is safe. By the middle of next week she’ll be bored with summer, and I’ll be tired of her boredom.
A split-second of relief and then the sick-gut feeling. Here it is, another shooting, and this one is way too close to home.
I don’t know what’s most disturbing:
That this is the 74th school shooting since Sandy Hook. Seventy-four in 31 states. An average of about one per school week in the last 18 months.
That when they report two dead at Reynolds, the shooter and a victim, I am immediately grateful it’s only two, not six or 10 or 20. I am relieved.
That I remember only three or four of the other 73 post-Newtown shootings and only because two of them happened in the last 10 days. That the mass of families outside Reynolds High School looks exactly like the mass of families outside every other school.
That the kids and the parents and the candlelight vigil here made me cry only because this is my backyard. My home. A school district where my friends work. Because the proximity makes it real.
That our lockdown drills are now as normal for our kids as fire drills.
That a company called ProTecht sells bulletproof blankets made specially for school shootings.
That I filled out the Everytown for Gun Safety postcard urging my local representatives to stand up to the NRA, to get this gun insanity under control — or at least get it a little bit more under control — but I don’t believe they will.
That I believe Tim Kreider’s recent essay, There is no Catastrophe So Ghastly That America Will Reform Its Gun Laws, nails it.
That I will tell you the dead boy’s name is Emilio Hoffman. He played soccer. He had a girlfriend. He made his friends laugh. He was 14. He is not celebrating the first day of his summer break today. He will never drive a car. He will never have his heart broken, the way ours break for him and his parents and his friends at this moment. I will tell you all of this, and by next week most of us will not remember he was named Emilio.
By next week we will be burying another boy.
This is on us, my friends. These are our communities, our schools, our children. You know who’s going to make the killing stop for us? Nobody. The question here is no longer “When will this end?” It’s “What are we going to do right now to end it?”
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