It was earlier that school year we all were shocked by the images of the world trade center twin towers in New York City and the Pentagon burning. It was the year I decided to retire at age 52. I wasn't going to work in a school any longer. I was not going to fear the sound of bullets, I would fight heavy metal in another way, as an environmental activist.
I loved my job as a school counselor for the Miami Public Schools and am pleased with the efforts that have been made to provide safety at school.
But this week another high school was the scene of a tragic shooting. My work allowed me to counsel youth and give voice to their concerns and provide hope and plans for their futures. They trusted me and how humbling that always was.
I remember when I first started working at Miami High School with DeWayne Mead and Jeannie Hammons. We would stand out during the 10 minute morning break and lots of other passing periods and together we knew every student in the building. And one of us spoke to each as they passed by us. it was personal and effective. We knew you, your name and what might be going on with you, academically, if you needed help with graduation costs, if you were succeeding in speech and debate, who your boy or girl friend was and how that was going. Between the 3 of us we knew you.
There were times a lonely person would walk by and one of us would speak up and hoped to lighten their day.
We reached out and it taught me to keep doing that even after both Jean and DeWayne left. 2002 and the sound was the glass shattering because a student pushed another into the window.
it wasn't a gunshot, no one died, my window was replaced. i got up off the floor and cleaned the glass off the student it covered. But that shock never left. I can't believe what all the students in all the schools that have experienced school shootings since that time, all those who survived and walked out of their buildings alive, but changed in ways that words may have not yet been found to describe.
Years pass but those crystal moments in our lives have the ability to return just as vividly as if they had just occurred.
I went to the University of Texas the year after the shooting from the tower on campus. Oddly 17 people were killed that day in August 1966 just as 17 died the day I wrote this article. 52 years had passed between each of those killing days, 52 years I was when startled by what sounded like bullets breaking out the glass wall of my office.
We don't forget but the human nature we have to internalize stimuli and recreate emotions we had once experienced is powerful. All those years ago, I got a research pass from one of my professors at the University of Texas enabling me to go into the "stacks" which were the stacks of library documents kept in the tower. It was a treasure of documents normally only graduate students got the opportunity to use for their research. And there I found and unrolled original treaties of tribal nations and other treasures. But on one occasion I made it to the top floor and noticed a door, opening it, I found myself in the open air peering through the very place that shooter the year before had stood, randomly shooting his 17 people below.
How can this all be different? Of course remove the guns.
But I often think of the other things we could do, and that might be to pay more attention to the people in our hallways. Know their names, seek out ways to meet their needs. Practice mediation, find a way to be tolerant to the outcast and those who remove themselves. Help people find a friend. A friend can make all the difference in your life and the lives of the lonely. Help others find purpose and feel better about themselves.
We could reach back to a story of the tribes who formed the League of Five Nations and provided a pre-curser of the Declaration of Independence. There was a time a thousand years ago when the people were at war with each other. A Peacemaker came and their weapons were buried under a Great White Pine and the war ended. Perhaps we can find a way to come to peace with our own and stop the killing done with weapons of war so our children can be safe in our schools once again.
Respectfully hoping for peace ~ Rebecca Jim