This time the school shooting happened in our home state of Indiana. Neither one of us were shocked. As my fifteen year old son and I drove home together that Friday evening, he talked about how ready he was for his last week of school to end. Oh sure, he was anxious for the trimester to finish and be done with homework and studying for the summer, but he was even more intent on school ending for a much more weighty reason.
He’s not dumb. Every day there’s an increased police presence at his public high school, he realizes there’s been yet another threat which law enforcement must take seriously. After all, Indiana State Troopers usually don’t show up at school unless there’s a good reason.
We talked about it in the manner of which we would talk about his latest project in American Studies, or what our take was on the latest NBA playoff game. Neither one of us were dramatic or particularly anxious. We spoke as if what we were talking about was normal and expected.
Because it is.
My fifteen year old said, “It’s not just a matter of if mom. It’s only a matter of when. And I don’t know if I’ll be able to get to her.”
You may not understand what he meant by that, Dear Reader, but as his mother, I understood it perfectly. At the time, his older sister had yet to graduate. She was a senior in high school. She is a paraplegic and wheelchair bound. And my son was calmly lamenting the fact that he didn’t know if he’d be able to save his sister in a school shooting.
Just a typical Friday night conversation with an American teenage boy, huh?
I tried to put his mind at ease a bit. “You can’t worry about her Cam. Let’s be real. There’s only one entrance and exit in the whole building that’s accessible for her. You have to. . .” I stopped. I didn’t finish my sentence. We left what we both knew to be true unspoken.
The truth is, shortly after my daughter was paralyzed, we were told that in an active shooter situation, the evil often prey on the most vulnerable, the most helpless . . . my son knew what I was saying. In a shooting he had to try to stay alive so I might not have to bury both of my children.
We calmly continued talking about entrances and exits in his school. We ran through different scenarios pretending we could plan for and control something which no one can plan for and no one can control.
When Cameron was just thirteen, the driver of a red Ford Explorer turned horizontally on a West Virginia interstate injuring our entire family and paralyzing his sister. He understands, better than most teenagers, that one can’t plan for tragedy and very rarely does life go like one thinks it should.
At least not when people intentionally or unintentionally break laws and rules.
This isn’t some political writing where I’m ranting and raving. My son and I are basically powerless in this whole scenario. We’re not the President, or senators, or representatives, or influential Republicans, or influential Democrats, or even members of a major lobbying group with tons of money at our disposal.
But this our life. This is our reality. These are the kinds of conversations a simple teenage boy and his mom from rural Indiana have as we are driving home at night. And I would guess we are normal. We are just one of many, many families simply trying to send our kids to school for a public education and keep them alive. When I graduated from high school in rural Indiana in 1989, I can honestly say not once did I ever worry about being shot or killed at school.
But my son thinks about that every day. And so I apologized, yet again, to Cameron. I reminded him there are many wonderful local law enforcement men and women, as well as teachers and community members, who will do everything they can to try to protect him at school.
I honestly meant for the world to be better for them. Yet I must stop, step back, and take a deep breath. I must remind myself I actually know Someone who will honestly make the world a better place for my children one day. As He promises in the book of Revelation:
God’s dwelling place is now among the people and he will dwell with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
And finally it will be the way I’ve always meant for it to be for them.
Until next Wednesday, Lord willing. Thank you so much for reading.