Heather's Blog

Being a High Schooler Post Parkland


Commentary on a new era with a whole new array of challenges and how I have decided to face them

According to BBC News 113 people were killed or injured in school shootings in the United States in 2018. Vox reports that there has been at least 2,004 mass shooting since Sandy Hook, with at least 2,287 killed and 8,341 wounded. These are not mild  statistics.
I personally do not see how our generation is not operating out of constant fear.
Last year, after the terrible tragedy of the Parkland Shooting I went to Boston for the weekend. I spent my whole weekend as part of a crowd and I was more anxious than I had ever been. I didn’t sleep well and I found myself on high alert at all times. Then I left the city, but that anxious fear stayed with me. It was not so overwhelming that I couldn’t make it through the school day or that I wasn’t showing up to school, but the fear instilled in me by yet another mass school shooting was not one to be brushed  aside.
It still isn’t.
It would be foolish to pretend like East Lyme has not had our fair share of threats. Though we enjoy the shelter of the “East-Lyme bubble” in many circumstances, there is nothing sheltering our town from the potential threat of a tragedy inflicted by an active shooter. East Lyme is at just as high risk as every other high school in the nation, and it is a scary reality that that risk is currently much higher than it was even five years ago.
It is hard for a high schooler, or anyone who attends a high school on a daily basis, to watch the news and not feel as though they are a target, which is a terrifying feeling.
That being said, there is little that can be done about this terrifying feeling.
Effective drills done more often? Yes, that would be beneficial. Consistent support offered from approachable adults? Of great value.Meaningful school wide assemblies discussing the protocol? Never a bad idea. Of course, these are all feasible options and could be of great value to all students and staff members.
But taking these steps or similar ones does not greatly minimize that terrifying feeling.
It teaches people how to cope with it.
Active shooter drills, national PSA’s, support-groups, and all other plans of action flooding the media in the past year are not going to eliminate anyone’s fear. Don’t get me wrong, those plans are more than necessary and I am an enthusiastic advocate for them all, but I also have a realistic grasp on what they are – coping  mechanisms.
This terrifying feeling – the one that comes with watching broadcasted tragedies target people who might as well be mirror-images of yourself – is not one that can be minimized or fixed at the drop of a hat.
It takes collective societal change to change one’s mind.
So why isn’t our generation living in constant fear? It may be because the fear is too large. It is unnatural to be concerned about such a fear 24/7 simply because our bodies would quickly become exhausted from living in such a prolonged anxious state. It may be because there is simply a learned resiliency of youth which motivates us to grow stronger in the face of challenge.
Personally, I talked myself out of the fear. Or rather, I talked myself out of letting the fear control me. There is nothing I can do to inflict societal change overnight so I decided that I would no longer make daily decisions based on fear. I should not be so worried about the safety concerns of going to a movie or a school assembly, that it controls my every thought or prevents me from going. I, and everyone else who may be subject to this terrifying feeling – were they to deeply think about the national situation at hand – need to live.
The truest and most valuable coping mechanism is to live and let nothing stop you from living.

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