One of my wife’s biggest fears has always been that if our 4-year-old son Danny is ever in an active shooter scenario, he will be shot dead. She thinks of this every time she sees him run, because he isn’t a speed demon. He skips and hops more than he runs. He’s joyful and curious, oh, so curious.
Jen, who is a nurse, has talked to Danny about guns before and what to do in the event that he sees a kid or an adult with a gun. Prior to this past month, I thought she was being a bit dramatic and overly cautious, but recent events — the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting, the El Paso Walmart shooting and the Dayton shooting — finally made me realize that her idea of preparing our 4-YEAR-OLD son for a mass shooting isn’t such a crazy idea after all.
School starts in about a month and our son will no longer be under my watchful eye or Jen’s protection. We will have to hope that his teachers, class assistants, and even he himself can keep him safe. I hate that we have to worry about a school massacre, or that we even have to prepare such a young, innocent and beautiful human for such a horrific incident.
When Jen speaks to him about guns and prepares him for such an event, the questions and comments spew out one after another. “Why would anyone shoot other people? Why would they shoot kids? I don’t want to die, Mama.” It’s heart wrenching, but Jen’s right: We can’t pretend or think that a mass shooting can’t happen to us, and we can’t bury our son’s head in the dirt. Especially at the increased frequency of which these shootings are occurring. America just experienced two mass shootings in less than 24 hours!
It’s disgraceful, unacceptable, and extremely tragic. And despite us preparing Danny, I know that teaching him how to call 911 from a landline, a locked cell phone and from an iwatch won’t be enough. It might help, but by the time he presses the 9, chances are lives have already been lost or won’t ever be the same again.
Will there ever be a time again when my wife won’t have to worry about joining a crowd? We don’t go to movie theaters, parades, festivals or any large gathering because Jen fears of a mass shooting. We still attend sporting events, which seems to be the one exception. But even then, Jen and I scan and plan upon our arrival. We scan the crowd and building or field and decide upon an exit strategy and defense plan. It’s ridiculous. We shouldn’t have to worry about our lives constantly. We should be enjoying life.
We should be able to think that festivals, stores, schools and churches are safe places. We should be able to trust that human lives are valued. We value human life and teach our son to value life as well. We do not condone violence of any type and speak out against such hate.
Mass shootings are senseless and horrid. They create an obvious disconnect between what our nation represents and what it actually is. Our nation isn’t great; at this point, it isn’t even OK. It is suffering from a lack of empathy, compassion and kindness.
That’s not what I want for my kids. I want them to be empathetic, compassionate, and kind humans. I want others to treat them this way too. Kindness matters. Words matter.
We all matter.