Tuesday, January 8, 2013

One Writer's Effort to Blog About the Horror

  Before I became a full time writer, I was an elementary school principal so the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December, 2012, just weeks before Christmas-- before what should have been the most joyous and peaceful time of year--hit me hard.  
The mass shooting reminded me of September 11 when the terrorists bombed the World Trade Center because I’m a Jersey girl and my elementary school was in Edison, N.J., too close to that awful event.  On that day we all thought the world was coming to an end.  We didn't know the extent of the terrorist attack.  We feared for the children in the building. I feared for the lives of my staff.  Parents arrived in a steady stream to remove their children and take them home.
The mass shooting reminded me of the day when a disgruntled and angry father tried to take his daughter from the building, intending, we all believed to leave the country with her, and I had to tell him he couldn’t have his daughter. 
It was a divorce situation.  He had a right to see her, but it was clearly written in the divorce decree that his visits were to be supervised.  Suddenly, one Friday afternoon, he arrived and demanded that she go with him.  
The mass shooting reminded me of the day when we had a gas leak, and I had to evacuate the building.  It was freezing outside and we were having an addition put on the school.  Someone left one of the gas tanks that fed a heater in the addition open and the gas leaked out.  When one of my teachers turned a fan on in her classroom and a spark flew out, we knew something was wrong. I made the call to the fire department and marched the children out of the building before it blew up.  Over 550 students and staff stood outside in the freezing cold of winter and waited while the fire department checked out the building, aired it out, and proclaimed it safe again.
Somehow, though, the idea of a man shooting his way forcefully into an elementary school--a weapon free zone--and then using a semi-automatic rifle to gun down innocent children and the adults who were there to protect them--seemed so much worse.  
I sympathized with the parents and relatives of the children who were murdered and with the children who survived, but I couldn’t help but think of the principal and the counselor--who both tried to stop that mad man.  
If you’ve ever worked in a school building, you know well the culture that exists.  You understand that the staff consider themselves "replacement parents" (the law directly states this) and you accept that you may have to sacrifice your own life to save their life.  I would have done the same as those two heroic women that day.  I would have tried to stop him.  
And that’s where the horror lies . . . for I now realize in all it’s black and white reality that there would have been no stopping him.  No one could have done anything to stop him.  You have your safety procedures in place--the "lock down procedures", etc. but even that is no match for a semi-automatic rifle and 30 round clips of bullets that can be fired in seconds as you wait for the police to arrive.
And if I were still an elementary principal, I would honestly tell the parents that the safety procedures we have instituted can only go so far.
Afterwards, I listened to the head of the NRA make his statement.  I listened to his suggestion that we arm our schools with police officers at the front entrance.  But does he realize that a school has several entrances?  And, perhaps, as many as thirty classrooms with windows that can be forcefully entered? Does he realize that children play outside and have gym outside?  And line up outside before they enter the school in the morning?  They also exit the building to get on buses at the end of the school day. 
How do we protect them from a mad man with a semi-automatic rifle?  
Doesn’t it make more sense to remove the semi-automatic rifle from the equation?  Shouldn’t military-style weapons be used only by the military?  
And do we have to have armed policemen at shopping malls and movie theaters and . . .
I think you get the point . . .
I apologize this month that I am writing about rifles and children and murder and elementary schools and not about writing and inspiration.  The one thing I have realized is that for me writing about this horrific incident, blogging about it, has helped me deal with it.  
So bear with me.  
      I know this is a complicated issue.  I know the solution is more than just removing semi-automatic weapons and 30  bullet clips from our society and plugging up loop holes in background checks.  
I am hoping this New Year will be better than last year and that somehow we can move beyond the politics and the economics and find real solutions to keep our children safe.

      A number of years ago I decided to write full time.  My first novel, Wild Point Island, is paranormal romance and was released in June and is available in mass market trade paperback and ebook from Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com.  

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