The second anniversary of Parkland is upon us. All I need to say is, “Parkland”, and immediately you know what that means. Parkland, El Paso, Columbine, Las Vegas, Sandy Hook, the list goes on and on and on. The nouns are now verbs, forever linked to violence and death from mass shootings. But behind each of the words are communities, families and individuals impacted by the events of “that” day. That day that changed the trajectory of their lives.
The words of this mother of two Parkland students need no explanation. Her heartfelt reflections about the ripple effects of gun violence in our country tell the story of countless others who are victims and survivors of gun violence in America. Her one request was to remain anonymous, which of course I will honor.
“After the shooting it was a painful whirlwind of trying to figure out what life looks like now with all the shock and pain. I can’t speak for my daughters whose lives were changed. I can speak for my life right now, which, as much as I don’t want it to be, is consumed by the tragedy.
Each Thursday for the past four months my husband and I pack up our backpacks and head to the airport for a 10pm flight to LA. We land at 12am LA time (3 am our time), pick up our rental car and head to an Airbnb. I usually take a half a sleeping pill and sleep until 7am. Wake up, go for a hike and head for family therapy at the mental health treatment facility our daughter has been in for the past four months, struggling with PTSD, anxiety and depression. We finish family therapy, eat dinner and go to sleep. We wake up again at 7am, head to the facility for a half hour visit with our daughter. Then we have our family support group, multi family group, and a few more hours with our daughter. Then it is back to the airport for the red eye back to Parkland, Florida.
We work Monday through Thursday, and, Thursday night, head back to the airport, back to LA, back to our suffering daughter. Fourteen-year olds are not supposed to see their friends die. They are not supposed to see their friends bleed out from nine bullet holes, or fall back in their seats after being shot in the head, or watch their friends seizure to death. They are not supposed to walk over their friend’s bodies on their way out of school. They are not supposed to be in People magazine, speak at Harvard, lead marches, lobby to politicians, and write for major newspapers. They are not supposed to go walk past the warzone every day on their way to school. They are not supposed to be plagued by fire drills, and red code drills. They are not supposed to have to go across the country for treatment because there are so few places in the country that are equipped to treat a young girl who saw so many friends die in school and then tried to do something about it by speaking out.
But this is our new America. This is the America that thinks its somehow ok that we had more deaths due to firearms than motor vehicle deaths last year. This is the America that will change seatbelt, airbag and texting while driving laws to save lives. This is the America that will change opioid prescribing laws so we can reduce addiction and death. And this is the America that, at the highest branches of government, defends the right of people to purchase and stockpile firearms, including weapons of war, with few restrictions. This is the America that is somehow indebted to the NRA and the gun manufacturers, somehow believing that the answer is more guns in schools, movie theatres, country western bars, churches and shopping centers. This is the America that calls our kids crisis actors for trying to make a difference by using their voices. This is the America that can do a lot, but can’t save our kids from gunfire. For now, they beat me down.
Between medical expenses and flying back and forth and trying to work full time jobs I have no bandwidth to fight for more logical gun laws. More than anything, selfishly, I just want my daughter to feel some relief and learn to find joy in being a kid again, and then be strong enough to build a life for herself with some joy in it. I work each day on controlling my anger and sadness for her and her sister’s sake (both my daughters were in school on valentine’s day). For now, this is our life. We are thankful so many people continue to relentlessly work for change. You give a hope for a better, safer and healthier tomorrow.” – A Mom from Parkland, Florida