Sunday, April 1, 2007

The flag at half mast...

When I was in the fourth grade, Marlo M. showed me a gun in the back of Mr. Dukluski's math classroom. It was small, in a black case, nestled into a foam cutout. I didn't tell a teacher. I didn't tell my parents. In fact, I think this is the first time I've ever spoken of it, because at the time it didn't even cross my mind that it might be real. I was in college by the time that I thought about the incident and realized that, hey, we were in the middle of Baltimore City, most of the kids I went to school with came from fairly rough neighborhoods, and yeah, it was probably a real gun. I was a naive kid.

Thus begins and ends my one and only personal experience with weapons in schools.

In high school, we had to fill out a survey on weapons, drugs and sex, and I remember being shocked at two of the questions. The first was do you think there are people in your school who bring weapons, and the second was do you feel safe in school. It had never occurred to me that someone at Spring Grove would bring a gun to school. Remember, this was well before anyone had ever heard of a little school in Colorado called Columbine. Of course I felt safe. Maybe it had occured to others that schools were vulnerable, but not to me. Hell, we had a kid threaten to blow up graduation and nobody did anything but gossip about it endlessly. I was a naive teenager.

I watched Columbine unfold on the little TV in the ECTV office. That TV attracted quite a crowd that day. It certainly wasn't the first school shooting, but it was the one that grabbed everyone's attention. Suddenly schools were locking their doors. Metal detectors and security guards began to appear. And it was horrifying and scary, but I was past high school and didn't feel the personal threat that I'm sure students and teachers did.

Today I was on the Catholic University campus in the early afternoon, for the first time ever. There were students everywhere. For the first time I felt vulnerable. For the first time, I felt like it could happen here, to me. If I want to work in a high school, I think I'm going to have to get used to that feeling. I'm not naive anymore.

My heart goes out to the students, faculty and families at Virginia Tech.

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