By Paula Burke
Like hundreds of other Seattle parents, I dropped everything after Ingraham High School went into lockdown the morning of Nov. 8 following a shooting at the school.
I am one of the lucky ones: I knew my son was safe. I knew he had been far away from the shooting. I knew I would see him soon by the table for kids with last names A-B.
I waited at the reunification site with hundreds of other people. We were united by the deep desire to see our kids again. It didn’t matter what language we speak at home, whether we were sending prayers to saints or lucky stars, whether we were wearing business suits or flannel pajamas or uniforms. Because we all had done the same thing: dropped everything to come gather our children. We had everything in common in that moment.
There have been 1,105 shootings at K-12 schools in the United States since the start of 2013—essentially since the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. The numbers are escalating: Almost 80% of those have been in the past five years. Nearly a quarter of the shootings at K-12 schools since the start of 2013 have happened this year.
We don’t have to have been the most severely impacted to say enough is enough.
Standing at the reunification site, I didn’t know these statistics. But since Tuesday I have been thinking: If 1,105 shootings at K-12 schools since 2013 means there have been 1,105 reunification sites, then there are hundreds of thousands of people like me, who stood in a crowd knowing my kid was coming home with me.
Now add in the grandparents, the neighbors, the cousins, the family friends, the coworkers who were waiting for word from the person at the reunification site. That’s hundreds of thousands who have been touched by gun violence at schools, but can say “we were lucky.”
It’s time for us to make the most of our fortune. We don’t have to have been the most severely impacted to say enough is enough. We don’t have to leave it to the people who have suffered the unthinkable loss of a family member to pressure our elected officials to find the political will to reduce gun violence in schools. We need to stop minimizing, stop saying “it could have been worse, stop accepting this as the norm. Gun violence at schools has impacted far too many lives.
Locally, we could start by using our voices to bolster efforts to repeal a state law that prevents cities like Seattle from passing local gun regulations—something Mayor Bruce Harrell has said he supports. Last year, legislators managed to pass a suite of statewide gun safety bills despite opposition from the powerful gun lobby, include a ban on untraceable “ghost guns” and a ban on high-capacity magazines.
We—the “lucky ones”— must keep pushing. Drop everything. Speak out. Use your second chance.
Paula Burke is a Seattle resident and parent.