In 2006, Elizabeth Edwards, ex-wife of former North Carolina Senator John Edwards poignantly told stories about her grief over her oldest son who had died in a car accident at 16 years old. Mrs. Edwards was fighting stage 4 breast cancer and died a few years after the interview.
Elizabeth Edwards, like a typical mother who had lost a child, grieved for a long time over her son’s death. She visited her son’s grave daily, talking to him, reading letters to him, taking his SAT score when it came in the mail. When what would’ve been Wade’s last year of high school began, she read aloud every book on the senior reading list.
“I went every day to Wade’s grave,” she wrote, “… because that was what felt right to me.”
Even as a parent, we might not be able to understand exactly how Elizabeth Edwards felt after her son died. The young Edwards had not experienced his senior prom, graduated from high school or college, gotten married and had children. It is never a natural sequence for a child to die before a parent. Worse, it is never acceptable if this death could have been prevented.
The Valentine’s massacre in Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Florida should remind us how many unnatural deaths of children that our society has not been able to prevent. What went through the minds of these children when they were cornered by their killers in their classrooms? Did they think of their siblings, parents, the wonderful but brief lives they experienced before all went dark? Did they even have time to say to themselves “Why me?” They probably were too terrified to even think those thoughts before they died.
What went through the minds of teachers who couldn’t protect their students from these shooters? What went through the minds of the lucky survivors who witnessed the executions of innocent youths?
How would you feel if one of the slaughtered students was your child? Would you still believe it was not the gun’s fault but the shooter’s, and it would not be justified to change gun laws? Would you still believe it’s the individual’s right to carry assault rifles that were meant only for war? Have you ever attended a funeral of such a death or corresponded with parents who lost their children through gun violence?
If you were armed as a teacher and successfully shot an armed student in your class, would you feel happy like a hero, that you had saved the children from your class by killing a mentally ill student? Would you trust your shooting skill if you had not received training like the police, or rarely if ever had used the gun even after being trained well? How often should these armed teachers have to go through recertification process for their shooting skill, the same way we physicians have to get recertification for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) every two years?
Did you know even police officers who have extensive training in using firearms, still miss their target in as much as 70% cases?
Did you know mentally ill people tend to kill themselves and not people around them? Did you know mentally ill people actually commit crimes less than others in society?
Does it bother you that we live in a society where elementary school students have to participate in shooting drills? Where parents have to teach their young children how to play dead? Where children go to school wearing bullet proof backpacks? Are we living in a peaceful society or are we at war?
Did you know the US has the highest gun death rate and the highest rate of civilians owning guns in the world?
Did you know the most common age of accidental gun victims in American households is 3 years old?
Today, I participated in the March For Our Lives in Washington D.C. It was an incredible sunny day, just a few days after a vicious snowstorm. It was incredibly moving to hear the “kids” speak up for their lives. Adults have not done a good job protecting them; it is time for the children to speak up. Some child speakers were still in elementary or middle school, such as the adorable 9 year-old granddaughter of Martin Luther King, Jr. They were sending powerful messages to our politicians as to how their young lives matter, that they are aware how we adults have not done our job to protect them.
How many more parents do we want to see who, instead of going to their child’s varsity sport games, have to go to a cemetery to make sure the flowers on their child’s grave stay fresh, the English literature book assignments read out loud, news about the family be told to the dead, as if they are still part of the living world? How many more minutes of silence do we want to see from Emma Gonzalez, the outspoken Parkland high school student who lost many friends from the shooting, who stood silent for 6 minutes and 20 seconds on stage to show how long it took the shooter to kill his 17 victims?
It is never a natural sequence for children to die before their parents. If we can stop this tragic cycle of school shooting and gun violence within our power, why don’t we? If it is time for the children to speak out for their lives, isn’t it time for parents to act on their behalf? If politicians are ignoring their cry for help, then it is our responsibility to listen to the children chanting during the March for Our Lives event today.
“Vote Them OUT!” The crowd was chanting.
It seems, for now, this is the only sensible solution to the gun “out-of-control” problem in America. Vote them out.
For the times they are a-changin’.
Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’.