I Will Remember | Teen Ink

I Will Remember MAG

March 22, 2014
By emcnich SILVER, Longmont, Colorado
emcnich SILVER, Longmont, Colorado
5 articles 2 photos 1 comment

Excitement and anticipation filled the air. It was suffocatingly hot on the bus, and the vinyl seats clung to the backs of my legs, leaving creases. My friend and I shared headphones, performed a terrible rendition of the latest Miley Cyrus song, retold the events of the day, and shared in the impending doom of finals. My high school swim team was headed to a meet in Broomfield, Colorado. Everyone was in good spirits and jittery with eagerness. The date was December 13, 2013.

Ten minutes after we’d left, my phone began to vibrate. I recognized the number as my mother’s work phone. Who died? was my first thought. My mom, who is an elementary school teacher, never calls me before late afternoon. I answered with a wary “Hello?”

“Elizabeth, I don’t want you to go to the swim meet today.” The bluntness of her words hit me like a bullet.

I squeaked out a “Why?”

With a sigh, she explained that there had been another school shooting, this time at Arapahoe High in Centennial, Colorado. Although the two schools were not close, she was afraid of a connected attack where I was headed. It was too late to get off the bus, but I assured my mom I would stay safe. Her departing words from that conversation have stuck with me: “Elizabeth, always be aware. Something like this could happen anywhere.”

Fortunately nothing happened at the meet. I soon learned that the victim of the shooting had been hospitalized. I pushed the incident to the back of my mind and focused on my finals. Nobody really talked about Arapahoe. School shootings have become such a common occurrence that people were not shocked. Sure, they might discuss it in passing, but it didn’t shake them to the core or consume them.

It wasn’t until the following week that I realized the true scope of the tragedy. Once again, I was at a swim meet, the chlorine and humidity overwhelming my senses. My team had been at the pool for almost 12 hours. Everyone was exhausted, and I was developing a headache; all we wanted was to go home. Then I noticed that the Arapahoe swim team was camped out next to us. Even though these girls had undergone one of the most traumatic events of their lives, they still showed up to represent the resilience of Arapahoe High School.

One girl looked at her phone with tears in her eyes. She turned to her friend and whispered. They embraced with tears streaming down their faces. I watched helplessly as the death of their classmate, Claire Davis, who had been in critical condition since the shooting eight days earlier, diffused like a cold draft throughout the warm room. Minutes later the Arapahoe team departed into the cold night amidst snow flurries falling like the tears from their eyes.

Our bus ride home was somber. The entire time I thought about how I could help. Fundraising or showing support would be nice, but I wanted real change. I wanted to try to mend the broken hearts, but I also wanted to prevent future ones. Simply suppressing the fear I have grown up with was not doing anything.

Colorado has had too many horrific shootings. Columbine happened when I was just two, the Aurora movie theater when I was 15. I know we are not alone in these tragedies. The children of Sandy Hook Elementary and the five Amish schoolgirls all experienced the sad reality that my generation has had to acknowledge before going to school every day: I could die here, today.

As a society, we don’t like to dwell on things that hurt. Life is hard enough without considering the tragedies of others. It took me a week and seeing a heart-breaking demonstration of strength and loss to recognize the magnitude of the crisis. We’ve become desensitized to the horrors in this world. We do lockdown and evacuation drills with as little thought as a fire drill, not registering that this threat is real no matter where you go to school. And yet no child should have to think like that, especially in a place that is supposed to be safe.

It is time for change. I don’t want to take away people’s rights, but at some point public safety has to have some say in the Second Amendment. This should not be about politics and popularity, but rather what will make America safe. These gun-related crimes need to be stopped, whether that means doing better background checks before selling weapons, limiting gun sales, or training teachers and law enforcement officers to better recognize the signs of mental illness. Our politicians should be working on bipartisan legislation to keep Americans safe and put the upcoming elections out of their minds.

Now barely anyone thinks or talks about the shooting at Arapahoe High School. If it’s brought up in conversation, they brush it off, saying it is such a tragedy but not taking the time to empathize with the students or families. The resilience and sheer strength of these people is awe-inspiring. Their ability to go to school every day knowing what happened in their hallways shows true character. The events of December 13, 2013, will never be forgotten. I will always remember that cold winter bus ride home, when I felt helpless and at a loss for words.

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This article has 5 comments.

emcnich SILVER said...
on Mar. 25 2014 at 9:01 pm
emcnich SILVER, Longmont, Colorado
5 articles 2 photos 1 comment
I appreciate your views on this subject, but if there is one thing I've learned in my AP Government class: there are a myriad of ways the Constitution can be interpreted.  This issue is highly controversial and the solution is not simple.  Although the Constitution states: “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed,” some think it would be better to increase the difficulty of getting a gun or even limiting the number on the street for the sake of public safety. There are many different angles to take on a solution, and gun control is a viable option, as well as mental health evaluations and training teachers to recognize the signs. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions on which of those will be the best remedy. There will not be a quick solution to this issue, but it is one idea politicians should be considering.

BHirsh said...
on Mar. 25 2014 at 2:36 pm
"Supposed to be safe" exists only in your mind, which is particularly foolish considering that keeping victims unarmed renders them less, not more safe. And, what is this "government rights" thingy? Who ever gave you the idea that the government "gives" us our rights? The Constitution exists to prevent the government from intruding on our rights; it is a restriction on government. The rights contained therein are preexisting and guaranteed by the Constitution, not "given" by it. You serioiusly need a remedial course in American Civics, and not the pap they're offering now, but a REAL civics course.

Mike said...
on Mar. 25 2014 at 11:36 am
Your school is gun free zone....so for a school shooting to take place that law had to be violated.....you think passing another law will somehow work this time?

Jack Burton said...
on Mar. 25 2014 at 10:56 am
Words sez: ...at some point public safety comes before the Second Amendment. Ben Franklin replies: They who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

RLEmery said...
on Mar. 25 2014 at 10:07 am
Amazing, we are done worrying about ignorant wet behind the ears children who havent a clue about rights, or the actual facts surrounding the issue. Until you grow up and get a brain or acquire the ability to think for yourself, you shouldnt be posting such irrelevant communist drivel in public!