People all over the country are saddened, horrified, and in disbelief over the atrocity that occurred in Uvalde, Texas last week. Twenty-one people were murdered at Robb Elementary School, including 19 children, ranging in ages from 7-10-years-old. There are dozens of families dealing with their worst nightmares becoming reality.
I didn't send my child to school the morning after but mustered up the strength to do so the following day. As I packed her snack, asked her to brush her teeth, and watched the way she danced all over the house while gargling, I couldn't help but think about what the last moments were like for the parents of the Robb Elementary School students. Were there half-eaten breakfasts left on the table? Beds unmade, even though they were asked to do so before or after they got dressed? Are they racking their brains trying to remember the last thing their child did or said before they walked out the door or got out of the car?
My heart breaks and aches for the families affected by this senseless act of violence. I am changed forever, as many of us in this nation are. We asked parents from all walks of life to air out their feelings and the overwhelming emotion expressed was terror. Parents are scared for the safety of their children—but they are also angry that gun violence continues seemingly unchecked and most importantly, united in their resolve to finally make a real change. Here, a selection of responses:
As a mother, licensed child mental health specialist, and clinical director of
Olympia Therapy in Washington State, I can say definitively, that Uvalde compounded our communal trauma. Our children live in a constant state of fear and hopelessness. I watch my own children’s mental health suffer because of the country they live in, and it devastates and angers me. Children should not be responsible for carrying the burden of adults who fail to protect them. We have a generation of children defined by violence and expect them to be mentally well. We have created a war zone in our own country. A war zone of sneak attacks, gaslighting, and denial—for years. Adults have created this war zone and they are responsible for changing it.—Cary Hamilton, mom of two, ages 9 & 11, Olympia, Washington
The morning after the shootings, dropping my 8-year-old son off at school was so hard. He was super excited because it was his last full day of third grade and he'd earned all A's this entire school year. My son even asked me if we could do something fun when I picked him up. I said, "Of course, Buddy!" and gave him a hug and kiss. I literally didn't want to let him go when I hugged him. Because of what happened last week, over a dozen parents aren't able to make breakfast for their children or watch them walk out the door excited for summer break, and there's nothing we are doing about it. When will it stop? Why does this keep happening? I am praying so hard for all these families and all affected. I'm praying hard for all of YOU and your kiddos. Love on your family and yourself a little harder today.—Deirdre Orr, mom of one, age 8, Nashville, Tennessee
I have a 10-year-old in fourth grade, so this is hitting me even harder than just a regular school shooting. And I can't believe I just said 'a regular school shooting' but isn't that what they are now? There have been 27 school shootings in 2022 alone. Our country has allowed this to happen and we've accepted this as our norm. But I refuse to do that. I don't want to live this way and I don't want my children to grow up in a country that puts its right to bear arms above the right to live. My 10-year-old was just a baby when Sandy Hook happened and I have thought about that day and those children every single day since. I am afraid to send my kids to school, to a mall, to a grocery store, to a movie theater, to a concert. Why should I have to live in fear so others have the right to own weapons of war? What will it take for something to finally change? —Tara Lustberg, mom of two, ages 10 & 5, Clifton, New Jersey
Being a parent right now is scary. I am constantly concerned about my kids' safety when they are outside of my care. It is sad when I have to worry about them while in school, playing outside or when they're with their friends at the mall. Also, I am the parent of children of color, so I have the added stress of preparing my children for police interactions. The need to increase the likelihood that all my children will make it home safely is becoming unbearable. —Etoie Edwards, mom of 6, ages 6 months, 8, 10, 17, 21 & 25, Smyrna, Delaware
When I think of sending my child to school and the possibility of him not coming home, it makes me sick. My God, it's so much. We are at this point because when Columbine happened, we were sad for a time but didn't answer or stick with the call to action, the call for community, the call to realize that universe-wise, we are one. These devastating acts will get closer and closer to home as long as it's the blame game versus the change game. And that change needs to start with caring enough to be wrong or embarrassed. It will take follow-through and teamwork. It will take grassroots organizations being supported. My vision for the world has always been and still is for the world to come together to provide children with what they need in order to live loving, giving, healthy, and joyous lives. What is yours? —Leanna Simmons-Graham, mom of one, age 10, Charlotte, North Carolina
As a parent, I feel scared to send my child to school one day, and as a teacher, I feel scared to return to the classroom. I look at my toddler and I wonder what school will be like for him in the future. Will the adults be able to keep him safe? Will I be able to keep my own students safe? It should not be in a teacher’s job description to die at work. We don’t talk enough about how teachers are affected by these tragedies too, and in my experience, teachers never fully express their fears to others either. We just trudge on, having difficult conversations with kids but no one holds space for the teachers to express themselves. I keep wondering how many more children need to die in schools in order for something to change. There are many things a parent may fear for their child—sending them to school shouldn’t be one of them. There are many things a teacher needs to think about throughout the day—dying at school shouldn’t be one of them.—Tiffany (@heymamatiffany), mom of one, age 2, Cleveland, Ohio
A friend of mine, who does not have children, messaged me last night and said that she can't stop crying and all she does is think of me. What's really interesting is, as a teacher, I have not reacted to it yet, other than anger. I just have to push it so far down to do my job. But it's always in the background, always, and this brings it to the forefront. Everybody says teachers don't get paid enough but it's not about the money. I make enough to take care of myself and my son. You can't even pay someone enough to do this. And as a mom, I have to trust that my son's school is doing what it can and that he'll be okay. If he's not—I don’t even want to think about that—what do I do? We all can't live a sheltered life and just be home. Personally,I do what I can to make a change—I teach my son about voting rights and bring him with me when I vote; I talk about mental illness in a matter-of-fact way, with no stigma, as well as other important issues in an age-appropriate way. As parents, that's what we have to do.—Andrea Gruber, mom of one, age 5, Little Neck, New York
My son Zumante died in 2009 when he was 9-years-old. He had just finished fourth grade. When I heard the news about the Texas school shooting, my heart dropped. We typically do not think of the mortality of our children, but it happens, and it is happening all too frequently in the most reprehensible and violent ways. It is heartbreaking, devastating, and infuriating. For me, it is both personal and professional. I am a grieving mother, mother of school-aged children, and a grief counseling intern atJudi's Housewhere I work with grieving children and their families. I hold the pain of losing a child for myself, as well as for the families we serve. It is unfortunate that our services are so needed, but perhaps the way that we support children and families as a country can evolve into being proactive instead of simply picking up the broken pieces each time this happens.—Zuton Lucero-Mills, mom of twelve, ages 10-34, one is deceased, Denver, Colorado