I had a conversation with my husband, Ed, that I had not had before, the one where I admitted I was fearful of being shot at school. I have thought about it, those deep, dark thoughts that pass through my mind almost every single day, but I had not shared it out loud. By saying those words, it made my fear feel very real. Columbine happened 24 years ago this week, almost every day feels like a commemoration of another mass shooting. It could be the never-ending and ever growing outrageous episodes of gun violence in what used to be safe spaces. Imagine the young people involved in these most recent cases of gun violence; trying to pick up a sibling at the wrong address; accidentally driving down the wrong driveway; mistaking one car for their car and the end result is gunfire, death and injury.
There has to be a thread of security left that we can reinforce to reclaim safe spaces for all of us, but especially for our children and young people. Common ground is what I am searching for in this work. Can we agree that as a society, it is our sacred obligation to keep our children safe from harm? How is that not a shared value? It must be, right. It is in the world in which I want to not only live, but flourish.
When I hear about another shooting in America, my thoughts go back to my dad. As the victim/survivor of one of the first mass shootings in this country, he became the unwanted expert in how to survive a tragedy. For most of his life, he kept his pain and trauma inside, only to be released during his many night terrors. He suffered in silence for most of his life, which was cut short at age 71 by a hemorrhagic stroke that I know was a result of his internal suffering. Ironically, or maybe not ironic at all, he was buried on the 60th anniversary of the murders. My dad had survivor’s guilt for exactly 60 years.
After every report of a mass shooting, the first call I would get would be from my dad. No matter where the shooting happened, he would check in to be sure I was safe. He would say, “Rob, did you hear? Are you ok? Be safe, know where you are going, and make sure you check your surroundings.” We would chat about the events, he would minimally acknowledge his pain, but it was not until his death that I truly understood the depth of his wounds.
What is safety in an unsafe world? Where do we find safety for ourselves, our children, our school communities? Gun violence remind us over and over again how unsafe public spaces can suddenly become. Remember my father’s message; “Be safe and make sure you check your surroundings.” Life can change in an instant, embrace your loved ones today and every day.
Safety is one of 30 basic human rights. We must find a way to rebuild a society that values the message from Eleanor Roosevelt more than 75 years ago.
In 1948, just at the end of World War II, the newly formed United Nations passed a Declaration of 30 Universal Human Rights. The committee that created these rights was led by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Read her words that explain the mission of Universal Human Rights:
Where Do Universal Rights Begin?
“In small places, close to home—so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”
—Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Chair of the United Nations Commission that wrote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948
We must do better because right now, we are failing miserably…