When the Classroom was my Safe Place.

I graduated from high school in 1994. I spent twelve years in classrooms without the words “school shootings” meaning much to me, because I had nothing to attach those words to–those now very prevalent words.

The classroom was one of my safe places. Places, like my home, where I walked into with the assumption that nothing bad could happen to me.

The only time that assumption was challenged was in 1988, when a woman named Laurie Dann, walked into a second-grade classroom, told the class she was going to teach them about guns, and then shot and killed one child, while shooting and injuring at least eight others.

The face of the woman plastered all over the news is one I’ll always remember–dark hair, dark eyes, a turtleneck– because of the horrendous acts that face is attached to. There was otherwise nothing worth remembering about her face, nothing distinctive evil that you would expect to see in someone who could shoot and kill innocent children. To my then twelve-year-old eyes, she looked so…. normal. Like any other mom.

Even after hearing that story of a woman going into a school (a school not very far from mine) and shooting children, killing one of them, I don’t remember getting ready for school the next day being afraid. Worried. Concerned that someone may come into my school and shoot me. That particular school shooting was an anomaly. Shootings didn’t occur regularly enough for me to think it could happen at my school.

I was twelve years old in 1988. In the seventh grade. I was old enough to understand that a child had died, and more children had been shot. I was old enough to grasp that a mother and father had lost their child. Classmates had lost a friend.

As devastating as all of that was, I still felt safe going to school the next day, despite that that school shooting happened less than an hour from my own school, because I believed something like that could never happen again. Not at my school. Not at anyone’s school.

Children today don’t think like that. Children today watch news of the latest school shooting and think, “My school could be next.”

School shooter drills prepare them for the occasion they may be right.

My school prepared us for fires and tornados.


Photo downloaded from public records.


What’s This Life For?

Ribbons wrap around trees that line the streets of the subdivision I live. I didn’t know why until yesterday.  A 21-year-old woman who lived just blocks from me, away at college for her senior year, was killed by a hit-and-run driver.

Just minutes before, the young woman had been out with friends on a Friday night. None of those friends could know that that night would be the last night they’d hear that woman’s laugh. See her smile. Hear her voice. Feel her hug.

The goodbye they shared was their last goodbye. But none of them knew that until they got the call.

The sudden call that confirms you will never see a person you love ever again.

The call that changes lives forever.

The call every parent prays never rings for them and then is shattered in disbelief when it does.

But all you can do is pray because one can’t control the erratic car, they didn’t see coming, racing toward them while crossing a street at night.

One can’t control which classroom, which grocery store, which concert, which movie theater, or which parade a gunman will choose to spray his bullets.

Our fate is not always in our hands. Even the most obsessed control freak has to concede to that. There is no guarantee to a long life no matter how healthy a lifestyle you live.

You can eat right. Exercise daily. Limit risky behavior. But if your day brings you to the exact spot where a car will run a red light, or a bullet will pass with no warning, what can you do? What chance do you have?

Nobody lives forever. Death is certain. We all know that. But everyone wants a timely death.  To die with a wrinkled face, silver hair, and a hundred years of memories lived, instead of just a couple decades.

How some people live long enough to see old age is a combination of good genes, self-care, and having the good fortune of never being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

When lives, especially young lives, are taken in such tragic, unfair, and nonsensical ways, it is easy to wonder what this life is for. Is it worth it? To live and love when your life and your love can be ripped away from you any minute of any day?

Our personal life experiences may answer that question for us.


Photo courtesy of freedigitalphoto.com