When the tragedy hits way too close to home…

This really, really isn’t what I wanted to write about this weekend. But after pushing through and doing all of this weekend’s have-tos, I’m finding this to be the only thing I can write about….

Like everyone who calls Mukilteo home, I’m thinking about the shooting that happened late Friday night. I don’t want to write the details; you can read about it at the link, or plenty of other news sources.

My peer group and I are reeling. We didn’t know the people involved, but shave off a few years, and we would have known them. We basically were them.

They went to Kamiak High School. So I’m remembering Kamiak. I remember feeling pretty safe and protected from the world most of the time; we were 90s kids in an idyllic town overlooking the Puget Sound, and I don’t think lockdown drills were a thing yet.

But you know what else I remember? I remember the bookends to my KHS years–freshman year was Columbine (Remember how that was a tragedy we’d never imagined, not “oh no, another school shooting?”), and senior year was 9/11 (Remember how that felt so impossibly surreal and nobody knew what to do next, instead of “Here come the pundits, seizing another chance to make the same political arguments as always, and everybody will have added a filter to their profile photo within an hour…?”). The world wasn’t safe then either, and we were just starting to realize it. We were teenagers, still kids, and we didn’t know what to do with that kind of fear. But we were also teenagers, on the brink of becoming adults, and the world was asking serious questions about how to become a safer place while maintaining the freedoms we treasure as Americans… and we were starting to realize it would be our responsibility to answer them.

You know what else I remember? I remember the choir room. The safe space. When life was too much to deal with, choir was always comfortingly predictable. Always the same people, in the same routines. We went on a retreat in the woods every fall, sang the Messiah and Carol of the Bells every winter, and went on some big trip every spring. We made beautiful music and memories together. It’s almost cliche to refer to the “choir family,” but I realized how extended that family is when I went back to visit several years later. The kids didn’t just follow all the same routines I remembered, they’d heard of my class! “You were one of the blesseds?!” Yes, I was. Yes, I am.

The shooting involved choir kids. That means they’re extended family. When I watch videos of them singing, I just have to close my eyes, and I can see my own generations of choirlings, plain as day.

You know what else I remember? Coming home from college in the summers, and reuniting with friends. Having people to “catch up” with made us feel a tiny bit adult, while falling into old patterns made us feel like we’d never really grow up, or maybe wish that we didn’t have to. Exactly the same as these college kids were doing Friday night. On the same street they were partying on. The only thing separating us from them is time.

You know what else I remember? The Harbour Pointe LDS Church building. I went to church there, youth activities there, early morning seminary there. I got to know God there. I felt the love of being part of a giant church family there. It was a refuge.

It was also the gathering place for kids and their families after Friday night. It hosted a vigil on Sunday night.

You know what else I remember? Every single mass shooting since I became a teacher. Every lock-in, lock-out, lock-down, whatever they’re calling them this year, drill since I became a teacher, all of which stir up memories of those shootings. Because now it’s not just about feeling unsafe; now it’s worrying about the safety of the kids. Kids who I love like my own. Kids who trust me to keep them safe. Kids whose families trust me to keep them safe. And on a regular, day-to-day basis, I do a pretty good job of it. Most kids feel safe enough in my room to express themselves, to make mistakes, to have fun, to ask for help, to try things, to share bad news, to share good news, to be themselves. But what about when I can’t keep them safe? What about the stuff I can’t protect them from?

Those kids in Mukilteo had some of the same teachers I had. And those teachers are living one of my nightmares right now.

You know what else I remember? Every kid I’ve taught that was holding onto some deep and unresolved issues. Emotional issues, psychological issues, issues that clouded the light in their eyes. Kids who got everything I had to give and services from those more qualified than myself, but it never seemed like enough. They might be the bullied, or the bullies, or both, or neither. Kids that were hurting somehow. Kids that might be capable of hurting others one day, especially if they have easy access to a weapon. I hurt for them when they were my students, and if the worst should ever happen, I’d hurt for them then too.

Those same Mukilteo teachers are living that nightmare also.

I don’t know how to end this post. A plea for better gun laws? For better mental health services? To stop hate and remember love? Do I express my love for the communities that I’ve found homes in? Do I express my faith that God is still with us? Hope for a better tomorrow? Despair for how the todays feel like they keep getting worse? Condolences to the families and those close to them?

All of those things. But… I don’t have closure right now, so I can’t write closure. Just… here we are.

3 thoughts on “When the tragedy hits way too close to home…”

  1. Here on this side of the mountains we didn’t hear about this. I’m so very sorry about your pain and the pain of others. My prayers go out to all.. You wrote a very good story about it, for all to see and feel..

    1. Dear Sweet Kristine, you are so completely right. There must have seemed there was no way for you to adequately end the telling of this story with its happy memories and also the despair your post embodies. And yet you ended it perfectly with questions we all are asking ourselves. You have shared the passionate feelings that we are reeling over with the continued tragedies in our nation. The senseless loss of lives do to hatred, mental illness, loss of self-worth that many of these killers must feel, loss of hopefulness, loss of love for human life and loss of the belief in God. Whether these deaths have been caused by guns, vehicles, bombs, knives etc., WHY is the one word that leaves us feelings so helpless. Tonight I would like to personally thank you for once again sharing your heartfelt feelings, a glimpse into your years of growing up in an idyllic town, nurturing schools filled with loving teachers like yourself, while reminding each of us that we must find answers to your questions somehow together. We cannot give up searching for a way to end the craziness, while constantly asking God for his guidance. Your students are so very blessed to have you as their teacher and all the love you have for them.

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