I shuddered as the words came out. The other day, I found myself saying “Well, back when I was in school …”
And so it begins.
I was talking with a high school student about cyber bullying. I had to explain that cyber bullying, as well as Facebook and social media as we know it, didn’t exist when I was in high school 15 years ago. Back then, cell phones were just phones you could take with you. The only “app” I had was an adorably basic version of the game Snake on my Nokia 6110, which also served as a paperweight.
I got a cell phone for emergencies when I was 15. My school had received a bomb threat two days after the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colorado. School officials decided to send us home early because there were only 20 minutes left in the school day. There was a bomb threat the following day, and this time the school administration had us gather on the soccer field at the back end of campus and kept us there well past the final bell of the day while police searched the campus.
This would be a terrible idea today, but back then school shootings weren’t a regular thing you heard on the news. There were no evacuation plans for bomb threats or active shooters – only fire drills. When students didn’t come pouring out of campus at 3 p.m., my mom panicked, as many parents did that day, and by the end of the week, I had my own cell phone.
Police were able to trace both bomb threat calls to the campus payphone – something you wouldn’t see in schools today. The payphone was promptly removed and the threats stopped. And life went back to normal.
When news broke about the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida this week, I didn’t blink. I just went into news mode.
I waited for concrete, source-approved details to come across the news wire. I checked Facebook while I waited. I answered a few emails. I approved some submissions for the online community calendar.
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As the story developed and reports of fatalities surfaced, a numb, hollow feeling settled in my chest. It was a familiar feeling. I should have been shocked, appalled and rattled with anger, but all I felt was the sadness I’ve become accustomed to feeling when these things happen.
After the first complete story posted online, I excused myself for my lunch break. Cars were moving up and down Soscol Avenue as they do every afternoon. I perched in my car to eat my salad and I watched a man place an order at the taco truck up the street. I watched a man with a bicycle rest for a moment at the bench under the tree in our parking lot. I watched a coworker step outside to make a phone call. All normal. Just another day.
And it’s not like there was anything I could do. Nothing the man at the taco truck could do or my coworker on his cell phone. Chaos was getting comfortable in a small Florida town, but it was a quiet, sunny 60 degrees in Napa.
I don’t have kids, and it’s in moments like this I’m glad I don’t. How can we keep living in this world where you can’t go to a movie theater, an outdoor concert, to work or even school without the risk of never coming home again?
I don’t have an answer for that, but we do it anyway. We keep going. We always do.
And we don’t talk about it. We feel whatever we feel about the news, and we move on.
But how can we just move on? I don’t know what to do. No one taught me about this back when I was in school.