It has been nineteen years since Columbine.
I was fifteen, and a freshman in High School. If I had lived in Littleton, Colorado, I would have been a student there.
I wasn’t. I lived in a small town in Central California, far removed from the terror of that April day.
And yet…from that day forward, it touched my life. I wrote an essay about Columbine as an example of my writing for an Honor’s English exam. The locks on our doors were changed to require a teacher’s key to enter. We began having lockdown drills.
I was fifteen years old, and being asked to imagine a life and death situation.
Last week, for the eighteenth time this year, we asked other students to make that decision. Eighteen school shootings in forty-five days. One every two and a half days.
It’s helpful to start saying it out loud.
Seventeen died. It’s helpful to say that too. Some were coaches. Some were members of the ROTC. Some were just students. All had lives and pasts and present, but they don’t have futures anymore.
We can argue that it was a mentally disturbed individual that took that from them, but we took mental healthcare away. So that arguement is over.
We can claim that is was a failure of the school, they should have had an armed guard, but they did. He is dead too.
We can offer up our thoughts and prayers. But those didn’t help twenty years ago, and they sure as hell won’t help now.
It was a gun that stole those lives, as much as it was a sad and demented individual. We as a society gave him access to those weapons, as much as we gave them to the Columbine Shooters, or Aurora, or Newtown. We said we would rather have guns than living kids. We said the Second Amendment is more important than life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
We said that.
But we don’t anymore.
My generation should have stood up after Columbine. We should have stood tall and said fix this. Make us less afraid. Make this world better. But we didn’t. We stood by and let them blame video games and movies and television and music. We let them blame lazy parenting and schools and anyone else that was clumsy enough, or stupid enough, to stand in the way. But never the guns.
We let our rights be taken after 9/11, because we were afraid. We put up with fourteen years of War in the Middle East, because we weren’t the ones in charge. We have wailed and knashed our teeth as we have been blamed and victimized and taken advantage of with student debt and lowered wages and rising inequality.
But not this generation. This generation has said enough. They have stood tall and said, “No more.” No more guns. No more hate. No more inequality. It stops now. And we will stand with them. Not because we have to. Not even because we want to. But because we should have been here the entire time. Because we wanted to be here, but didn’t know how.
Because this generation…They will change the world. And we will stand with them.
Goodnight. And good luck.