On February 15, 2008, I sat down with my then 8-year-old daughter. She asked what was going on? She wanted to know what everyone was talking about. She had heard bad things. What I realized was that she was asking, “Are we safe?”
That is because on February 14, 2008, at 3:05pm, Steven Kazmierczak walked into Cole Hall at Northern Illinois University (where I was faculty) and opened fire into a lecture hall with a shotgun and three pistols (a Glock 19, and SIG Sauer P232, and an ACP Hi-Point CF380). He had eight full magazines.
Over the next few minutes, he shot 23 people of which six died.
At 3:03pm, I was sitting in my office in Gabel Hall, about 300 yards away. I was lucky. As the shooting started, I was leaving my office and walking out to my car the opposite direction. As I left the parking lot, all I saw were police, helicopters, fire rescue, and ambulances. It was a swarm. I thought, “What is going on?’ I quickly switched on the radio to local news and heard.
I called my wife and told her to turn on the news.
As a parent, you know that there are difficult conversations that you are going to have to have. There is, “The Talk.” You will have to talk about loved ones dying. There are breakups. There are lost friendships. But, nowhere in the parenting manual is there a chapter on, “Are we safe?” Nowhere in the rules for being a parent does it tell you that you need to worry about your child being shot at school.
Today, I spent my morning and early afternoon at a remarkable event. A group of students organized a March For Our Lives event in Columbia County, Georgia. The turnout was amazing. There was a march, a rally, chants… There were impassioned speeches from students. There were people of many races, religions, persuasions, and ages. It was truly moving.
People often criticize millennials. But, what I saw today gives me hope for the future.
Young people can make a difference.
We need to support these children in their endeavors. In this area, during the March 14 walkout, many schools were giving three day In-school Suspensions for walking out. I argue that we should march with the students. We should support them. We should make sure they are safe. The schools, the teachers, the administrations should all help our students become members of our democracy.
These are our children and our future.
With the exception of a year, I have been a teacher or a student for my entire life. I have taught on many different levels. I have been a middle school teacher (okay, for one semester for student teaching...because of this, I have a profound respect for middle school teachers), high school, undergraduates and graduate students. I have coached soccer in youth leagues and high school. Education is in my blood.