If I was outside of the staff bathroom, I’d grab all of the students closest to me and hide there. The bathroom door can’t be opened without a key so that would be a safe place to hide.
If I was in the hallway on the North side of the building I’d either duck in to the auditorium or run out the Admin parking lot door.
If I was in the middle of the hallway on the North side I’d have to hide with one of the other teachers in their classroom but If there doors were already shut and they couldn’t let me in, I’d just have to run.
(Thoughts of a school staff member, the day after a school shooting.)
I never planned to go in to education. I studied Communications in college and wanted to be a journalist. But of course, life worked the way that it often does and opportunity after opportunity found it’s way to me until I ended up here, in education. It’s a career and a field that I’m extremely passionate about, one that allows me to have an impact on the next generation but not one that I ever imagined I’d have to risk my life for.
Yesterday was a difficult day for me. I spent most of the morning trying not to cry. My eyes continuously filled with tears at the oddest moments and it took every ounce of my composure to not lose it. Walking in to a school building 24 hours after a student, in your city, died in one is a feeling that I’ll never forget. I spent the work day trying to focus on the tasks at hand and not the storm of grief that roared in my chest. I was angry…actually I was livid but more than that I was distraught thinking about the teachers that lost a student, the parents that lost their child and Kendrick Castillo…the young man that lost his life.
Last night we attended a church service that was scheduled in response to the shooting at STEM. Within minutes of getting there all of the tears that I had been holding in all day began to stream down my face. The storm that I’d so carefully held in began to pour out of me and I just sat there and sobbed. The pastor began to speak and the first thing he did was affirm us and our pain. He encouraged us to lament for what had happened and for the life that had been lost and told us that he planned to do the same.
He told us that it was important to not push our feelings of fear and anxiety and pain away because that’s not healthy. Rather he invited us to feel it all, everything that was raging inside of us in that moment and to invite God in to it. To give God room to sit with us in the midst of our sadness and to lay his hand on our pain.
As I sat there overcome with grief I felt so free. Free to feel without trying to turn a tragedy into a testimony. Free to grieve without needing to explain that of course I still believe that God is good and sovereign. It was beautiful. After about 30 minutes of worship and time to grieve and pray, the pastor came back up and led us in a new direction.
He spoke about the truth of Christ and his resurrection. That even in times where it feels like death has one, times where we can feel it’s sting we must still remember that Jesus defeated the grave and died so that we might have life. He invited us in that moment to pray to God and ask him for hope. Hope in the face of darkness, hope in the midst of pain, hope that there will be an end to this and that these stories won’t continue.
At times, I feel so overcome with sadness thinking about school shootings and the students and staff that lose their lives in them. I’m sad over the moments where I consider a change of career…one that’s less dangerous, one where I don’t run the risk of seeing my students or colleagues murdered. I grieve over those thoughts and the reality of this week.
I don’t have any encouraging words to say or a bright bow to put on the crappy box that is this reality but I can say without a doubt that today my hope is found in Christ and Christ alone. I pray that God fills us with hope that the darkness won’t last forever.
I pray that God gives us wisdom and courage to make decisions, legislation and the changes that need to be made in order to keep our kids and our educators safe. I pray that no more students are killed in buildings when all they want is to learn. Jesus give us hope again.
“How long ‘til your children find your rest?
How long ‘til you draw them to your breast
We go on holding to your promises- how long?
‘Til you wipe away the tears from every eye
‘Til we see our home descending from the sky
Do we wait in vain?
Jesus, give us hope again? “