If I Don’t Make It, I Love You: Survivors in the Aftermath of School Shootings Book Review

School used to be a place in which we nurture the minds and futures of the next generation. It has in recent years, become a place of death and heartache.

If I Don’t Make It, I Love You: Survivors in the Aftermath of School Shootings, by Loren Kleinman and Amye Archer, was published in 2019. Inspired by a text sent by one of the students who survived the Parkland shooting, the book follows the history of school shootings. Interviewing survivors and family members of the victims, the reader is taken into the emotional heart of the experience and the reverberations that last long into the future.

I really enjoyed this book. It hit me in the right place. I was both angry and sad. I was angry about the lives that were lost. I was sad for the families who would never see their children grow up. What struck me was that most, if not all of the shooters fit into a certain type. They are mostly angry white males who have a grudge and turn to violence to get back at those who they feel have wronged them.

The aspect of the book that has stayed with me was the responses from those who survived Columbine and the other shooting that occurred in the late 1990s. Many of us who were on the verge of adulthood back then are now parents. Though it has been decades since they were nearly killed, hearing the news immediately took them back to that day. It is a reminder that trauma of this kind never truly leaves us, regardless of how many years have passed.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

If I Don’t Make It, I Love You: Survivors in the Aftermath of School Shootings is available wherever books are sold.

Sandy Hook Part II: At Least Eighteen Children and Two Adults Killed in an Elementary School in Texas

We all remember the horror of Sandy Hook in December of 2012. The young lives lost, the adults who tried to save their students, and the heartache that will never fade.

This morning was the sequel to that day. An eighteen-year-old gunman charged into an elementary school in Texas. Among the dead are at least eighteen children and two adults.

This is the third mass shooting to make national news in the last seven days. The third occurred in a church in Orange County in California. Five people were injured and one man was killed. Closer to home, a man was killed by a stranger carrying a gun on the Q train on Sunday in New York City. The accused was caught today. When did we become so desensitized that this unnecessary loss of life that it is nothing more than another headline?

I keep thinking that it is going to get to the point in which we have to wear bulletproof vests as part of our regular wardrobe and go through airport-style security to complete simple errands.

I blame the NRA. I blame the Republicans who are more concerned with their careers and lining their own pockets than doing what is right for the country. I blame all of our politicians who are too chicken shit to speak up and save lives. I blame Fox News and other right-wing media organizations who knowingly peddle lies. I blame those who are more concerned with the unborn than the current members of the young generation. I blame those who use mental health as an excuse instead of looking for real-world solutions and once more create a sense of shame around needing help.

We need rock-solid gun control laws now. We needed them in 2012 and we needed them after Columbine 23 years ago. I don’t know what it is going to take to get this legislation on the books. How many of our children will die before we do something about it?

If you have children, hug them and tell them that you love them. It may be the last time you say it to them.

The only thing I can think of right is to vote in November. Regardless of party or affiliation, if a candidate or incumbent does not support gun control, do not vote for them. Send the message that lives are more important than power.

May the memory of those murdered today be a blessing and finally be the impetus needed to get off our asses and fix this problem for good. Z”L.

P.S. I have no doubt that certain members of the press will use the fact that the allegation that the accused crossed the border illegally to once more further their own agenda.

P.P.S The fact that the shooting in the church in California is news to me tells me everything I need to know about where this nation is going.

Two Years After the Parkland Shooting, Nothing Has Changed

Since the massacre at Columbine High School in 1999, politicians and multiple Presidential administrations have spoken of, but have not enacted reasonable gun control laws. The result of this inaction is far too many gun massacres since then and an incomparable loss of life.

Today is the second anniversary of the Parkland shooting. When my generation went through Columbine, we were too shocked and sad to do anything. The kids from Parkland, though shocked and sad, did something.

They demanded change. They stood up for their murdered classmates and teachers. They did not back down from politicians who gave them lip service about gun control and the lack of gun control laws. They called out the NRA and the politicians who are in the back pocket of the NRA.

I wish that my generation had been able to use our collective voices as the kids from Parkland and this current generation has. Perhaps things might have been different. But we cannot go back, we can only go forward. Only then we can honor the memory of those lost and protect others from what these kids have experienced.

May the memories of those murdered that day be a blessing to us all. Z”l.

Same Hypocrite, Different Day

One of the jobs of the President of the United States is to be the “consoler in chief” when a national tragedy strikes.

As we all are aware, there were two mass shootings on Saturday. Yesterday, you know who spoke to the country.

He sounded Presidential, but in reality, he was the same hypocrite on a different day.

He talked about ending racism, white supremacy and unifying the country. But his words are sound and fury signifying nothing.

He talked about the mental health of the accused gunmen, which personally offended me. To say that the accused in both shootings are mentally ill, without knowing all of the facts is derogatory to all of us who have the unwanted friend that is mental illness.

He also talked about how violent video games contributed to real life violence. This has been proven wrong time and again. And yet, politicians will use that an excuse for the lack of real reform of gun laws.

Just after the Columbine massacre, some were saying that the music of Marilyn Manson was to blame for the shooting. I wish those in the leadership positions, whether in a religious role or a political role, would put on their big boy/big girl pants and take a real look at what caused the accused to kill innocent people.

Those of us who are of a certain age and older remember the dark days after 9/11. Then President George W. Bush stood on top of the rubble with his arm around a first responder and addressed the nation. Putting aside partisan politics, he also spoke of unity and coming together. That speech felt authentic. Yesterday’s speech was not.

May the memory of those murdered be a blessing and may we finally enact sensible gun legislation so we never have another weekend like we just had.

Thoughts On the new Madonna Music Video

I’ve often spoken about the Columbine shooting and the unnecessary loss of young life twenty years ago. Back then, it was front page news for weeks on end.

These days, mass shootings in the United States are just another blip on list of daily news headlines. The headline may last a week at best on the front page before it slowly fades from the nation’s consciousness.

Earlier this week, Madonna released her new music video. Entitled God Control, the video tells the story of a fictional shooting in an New York City nightclub similar to the massacre at the nightclub in Orlando three years ago.

I will warn you that the video does contain graphic imagery.

There is enormous power in celebrity. In using her voice and her music, Madonna speaks of the heartache and grief that gun violence creates. We need sensible gun control laws. There has to be a way to respect the 2nd Amendment and responsible gun owners while protecting innocent people.

My hope (though it often springs eternal) is that one of these days, sensible gun laws will be the law of the land. Until then, we will continue to grieve for those who are killed simply because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Thoughts On the 20th Anniversary of the Columbine School Shooting

20 years ago today, millions of high school students around the country (myself included) walked through the front doors of their high school as they did every school day. By the time the school day ended, 12 students and one teacher were dead in Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.

It was America’s first school shooting in what was then recent memory. Sadly, as we all know, it would not be the last.

Looking back, I can’t help but feel anger. One mass school shooting should have been enough to galvanize the nation and our leadership to change our gun laws. If New Zealand can change their gun laws after the Mosque shooting last month, why can’t America do the same? If we had, we might have prevented the shootings at Sandy Hook and Parkland.

May the memories of the students and the teacher killed be a blessing and may we finally learn from the past.

Thoughts On the First Anniversary Of the Parkland Shooting

One year ago today, the students and staff of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School started the school day like any other school day. By the time the sun had set, 17 people were dead and many more were injured.

I’ve spoken in previous posts about my memories of the day of the Columbine attack. If only we would have done something back then. If only the gun laws would have been strengthened. If only our treatment of mental illness would have been different. Parkland and the other mass shootings that have occurred might not have happened. But we can only say “if only” in hindsight.

My heart still breaks for the families of those killed, the community at large and for the survivors whose lives were forever changed.

We need common sense gun control laws. While we cannot step on the rights of gun owners who follow the law and are of sound mind, we cannot continue to allow our children to be massacred in their classrooms.

May the memories of those who died one year ago today be a blessing and may we never forget the toll that gun violence takes on all of us.

 

Another Day In America And Another Mass Shooting

Up until a few years ago, a mass shooting of innocent civilians was much more than the average news headline. The Columbine shooting was the first mass shooting in modern American history to shock the country and the world. These days, it is rare that a week a or a month can go by without hearing about a mass shooting.

Last night started as an ordinary night for the patrons and staff of the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, California. Then a man walked in with a gun and started shooting. As of tonight, there are 13 dead. Among the dead is the accused gunman and a police officer who lost his life while trying to save the lives of those inside the bar.

 

According to news reports, the man who opened fire was a former marine who struggled with PTSD after leaving the military. Another news report states that some of the victims in this shooting survived the shooting in Las Vegas last year.

As with previous mass shooting, the same issues will arise: gun control and mental health.  How many more innocent lives will be taken before we do something? What will it take for the politicians to stop taking money from the NRA and listen to the citizens who want reasonable gun control?

I am not against the 2nd amendment. I never have been. If someone wants to buy a gun, I have no right to stop them. But when will come to our senses and realize that there is a way to respect the 2nd amendment while making sure that those who are not of sound mind cannot buy a firearm? What will it take to enact national legislation to ensure that background checks when it comes to purchasing guns?

When someone wants to drive, we don’t just hand them the keys to the car. We make sure that they are capable of driving. We give that person a license with the full knowledge that the license can be taken away if said person does not adhere to the rules of the road. If we can do this for drivers, why can’t we do this for those who want to own a fireman?

It’s another day in America and another mass shooting.

When Has School Shootings Become Normal?

Friday morning started off as an ordinary day at Noblesville West Middle School in Indiana. Then one of the students walked into a classroom with a gun and the day went from ordinary to life changing.

By the grace of G-d and the heroism of teacher Jason Seaman, there were only two injured: Mr. Seaman and a female student. There were no fatalities.

When did school shooting become normal? I’ve stated in previous posts about being in high school when the Columbine shooting occurred. Back then, school shootings were major news because they didn’t happen. When they did happen, not only was it major news, but the surge of grief and anger was paid attention to by politicians and those in the government.

Today, school shooting are just another news bulletin that holds our attention all too briefly. First there is the anger/grief, the calls for gun control reform. Then there is lip service of thoughts and prayers/”it’s not the right time” comment from our politicians. Finally the story fades into the background until another school shooting occurs and the cycle starts all over again.

How many innocent people will be hurt or killed  before this mania stops? When will our children and those who teach our children be more important than a gun?

More importantly, why have school shootings become normal?

 

What If We Had Spoken Up?

Hindsight is always 20/20.

On April 20th, 1999, twelve students and one teacher were murdered in a mass shooting at Columbine High School.

Two weeks ago, fourteen students and three teachers were murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

What if, nineteen years ago, my generation reacted as the kids who survived the massacre are reacting now? What if we had an Emma Gonzalez and a David Hogg back then? Would we have had a public audience with then President Clinton and a televised town hall, meeting with our elected representatives and speaking up for those whose lives were lost? Would we have walked out of school and marched in solidarity against gun violence?  Would we have publicly shamed our elected officials for taking money from the NRA? Would we have demanded the legislation of sensible gun laws and the strengthening of our mental heath system? Could we have prevented the unnecessary future loss of too many innocent lives, had we spoken up then?

I honestly don’t know. I only know that these kids are speaking up in a way that should have happened a long time ago and perhaps now, in 2018, change will finally come.

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