I followed the Columbine shooting in Colorado spring of 1999. Of course I did. I was living in Minneapolis, doing my BA in Political Science at the U of M Twin Cities, living with my best friend Mariann and the man who was to later become my husband, Arild, in a dingy apartment near campus and we were watching it from our living room which had a mice problem but that was ours nonetheless – and we were shocked and saddened. I saw Bowling for Columbine that came out in 2002, at which time my husband and I had moved back to Norway, with our then 1 year old son William.
I cried my heart out for the 20 children and 7 adults who were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut ten years later in 2012, refusing to let myself feel too much in my 5 month pregnant state with a four year old daughter and a seven year old son and an 11 year old son – my middle son the same age as many of the victims.
I was increasingly worried when on Valentines Day 2018, 17 high school students and teachers and other adults were killed in Parkland, Florida immediately seeing my 17 year old sons face in the victims and seeing myself in their parents anguish.
in May of 2018, there was a school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas – at the time when it had been decided that we would indeed move here within just a few months – with 8 students and two teaches left dead.
Then yesterday, my son Theodore sent me a text message, and I am choking up thinking about it. The text message said that there was an active shooter at school and that they were in lockdown – locked into their respective classrooms. He later told me about how the shouts came when he was at soccer practice – somebody yelled “LOCKDOWN” and everybody repeated the yell and ran towards school to the classrooms they belonged to. He told me how those in the cafeteria were desperate, many running across the field, throwing themselves over fences to get away. He told me how they had to sit on the floor, how he hid near a cupboard. I remember telling him to stay safe, be hidden, and pretend to be dead if the shooter came in. It was surreal. I was in shock, sending my husband in Norway a message telling him while desperately trying to get home.
I was utterly and completely helpless and desperate. I remembered the murders at Utøya in Norway on the 22nd of July 2011 – a date no Norwegian alive at the time will ever forget, when 77 kids and adults were killed – many of which were kids as young as 16 and on summer camp on an island, living in tents and having the time of their life – before a man posing as a cop came and hunted them down as a fox in a hen house. These kids too sent text messages home. Until they didnt anymore. And I was so scared yesterday, when I realised that I did not have the luxury to assume that just because my son was texting me, he would be fine. Nobody knew anything about where the shooter was, what the target was, how many were dead or if there were more planned.
We now know that the boy who died was an 18 year old Lamar High School senior and that police believe it was a targeted attack – he was executed and there were about a dozen gunshots marking the event and it happened right outside school campus. A 15 year old girl that was with him was grazed but will be ok physically. It was not on school property – and the kids at school were never targeted. We know that now – but I for sure did not know that yesterday while texting with my 13 year old son, hiding in a locked classroom for four hours while police were investigating, sitting in a scolding hot bathtub to keep from shaking.
The shooting was also a bit too close to another tragic event marring the school just last week, in a murder suicide of two students, when a mom found her fifteen year old son and his best friend shot to death in what was a probable murder-suicide. The grief councillors are staying on campus for another week.
How do you even prepare your children for this? Apparently they prepare from this from kindergarden. Prepare for emergencies like someone hunting them with a gun at school. What they should do if someone yells “lockdown”. They know to stay low – sit on the floor and not be near windows where they might get shot.
Last night I held my kids extra close, knowing how lucky I was that this was not even a close call – it just felt like it until I had him safe at home again. I know now that he was never in any danger, that nobody was hunting him, and that he was himself never scared – he was watching youtube while texting with all his family and friends who WERE worried about him. But HE was ok – and for that – I am grateful. I am blessed he was never scared for his life, beyond those first moments when they were running for shelter.
But I have a lump in my throat that is not going away. I dont know when I will feel safe again for him and the other two that are also in school here. I know that this can happen anywhere – proven by the fact that it has even happened on a safe summer camp for kids in Norway. But I never imagined myself being there on the other end of a text message – feeling helpless, and knowing that texts do not mean that there will still be life at the end of the day.
Go hug your kids again.