I loved elementary school when I was a kid. I loved my teachers, I loved the principal Mrs. Owens, and I loved the brick building, and the chalkboards, and the desks, and the old hallways that smelled of varnish and cleaning fluids.
I always felt safe and happy when I was in school. It was where I went to learn from teachers and act in school plays and sing in the school chorus. The only small sign that there was a dangerous world outside the double doors was our periodic “duck and cover” exercise and trip down to the basement in the event of a nuclear attack. I cannot imagine what it would be like, as a grade school student, to walk down the school hallway and see a gunman shooting into classrooms. There could not be a more jarring disconnect, to my sheltered little world, than violence of any kind at a school.
But that was the early 1960s, and this is 2012. It seems like every year we deal with a horrible new school shooting tragedy, like the one this morning at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut that left at least 27 people dead — 18 of them students. 18 children gunned down at their schoolhouse! The parents of those 18 murdered children left with awful holes in their lives and a surging feeling of rage and disgust that a gunman would shoot down innocent children. Countless other little kids who survived, but who are devastated and traumatized, and countless parents who wonder what the hell they can do to try to keep their children safe and sound in this increasingly random, violent world. We know that what happened in Newtown could easily happen anywhere.
Where have we gone wrong? How have schools been turned from places of order and learning into charnel houses and shooting galleries for deeply disturbed, heavily armed people?
We need to figure out what has happened and fix it, fast. A society will not be able to endure for long if parents can’t feel secure about sending their children to a place of public education.
It just breaks my heart that happy little kids sitting at their desks on a Friday morning, no doubt thinking about their upcoming holiday break, could be shot dead. What could be worse than this?