On February 14th, 2019, I listened to a podcast published by The Daily (The Parkland Students, 1 Year Later), in which 4 teenage girls were interviewed after their school shooting in Parkland, Florida. They were 15 years old. I was also 15 when it happened to me.
In the interview, 15-year-old Jade speculates about what her life will look like when she is 20. They discuss that they’ve perhaps changed their minds about whether or not they will choose to have children. Brooke tells the interviewer, “I’ve wanted kids my whole life. But I don’t know if I want them anymore … How are we going to send our kids to school? It’s hard for me to want to have kids in a place like this.”
I hear you, girls, and I hope that someday, if you choose to have children, they can grow up in a world where they do not need to fear being murdered in their school.
Will there come a time when these girls don’t think about their shooting every day?
Will there come a time when the girls don’t think about their shooting at all?
If their experience is anything like mine, they will carry their shooting with them into corners of their lives they might not expect for many, many years.
Their shooting will show up every Fourth of July when the fireworks burst.
Their shooting will show up when they teach themselves that when they feel numb, they should seek out adrenaline—which might mean having sex with a stranger, or jumping out of an airplane, or traveling some place they probably shouldn’t.
It’ll show up when they destroy their relationships as adults when they can’t stop distracting themselves with their drug of choice: their career, their booze, their compulsive obsessions.
Girls, it’s not going to be pretty sometimes. You may still have bad days that result from your shooting for the rest of your lives, but there will be good days too. Eventually, mostly good days.
It will take time. It will take therapy.
It will mean surrounding yourselves with people who are strong and wise and kind when you need someone to lift you up.
As I write this, it’s almost impossible for me to listen to the podcast I mentioned above. It’s still raw all these years later to hear the voices of little girls who sound like I did when I was 15. I had the same thoughts running through my head.
Next September marks 15 years since the shooting at my high school. I know what it feels like to turn 20. I know what it feels like to turn 30. I know the answers to the questions the girls posed.
I’ve been working on moving forward, and I hope we will each find our way forward after our own tragedies.