Eighteen in 2018 – that’s the number I keep hearing, seeing, reading; on my phone, in the newspaper, in my classes, it’s everywhere. Eighteen mass shootings in the United States in 45 days, eight of which took place in middle schools or high schools, exactly like mine, their hallways just the same as the ones I walk through every single day.
Seventeen students and staff of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were shot and killed last Wednesday in the Parkland, Florida mass shooting. That isn’t just a number to represent casualties and compare one devastating tragedy to another. Those are 17 lives unfulfilled that were lost in a place of learning and growth, a place where students came to build their futures, but instead had them prematurely stolen from them.
To imagine the loss to the community is unfathomable, the idea of 17 of my classmates being abruptly taken would create a wave of disjointedness and hardship that would affect every student in my high school.
At Claremont and schools across the country every student is connected. Your social status is irrelevant to your impact on the school, your contribution each and every day to the community is significant, whether you and everyone else believes it or not.
I can’t imagine to go from having classmates whom I share lunches, classes and pencils with everyday, and then unexpectedly have them taken, and be unable to see their smiling faces ever again. The lack of their presence would be heart-wrenching, touching each student in a different way, and the well-oiled machine that is high school would fall apart at from the inside out.
I am not a part of congress, nor even a United States citizen. I do not have the power to change laws on gun control, although I wish I did, or even vote for change. However, I can be an advocate for kindness, for open communication, and to end the stigma surrounding mental health.
The awful truth of these shootings is they often result from bullying or perceived bullying combined with mental illness, with the perpetrator frequently going to the extent of taking their own life at the conclusion of the shooting. This means that myself and other high school students do have the power to try and make an impact on this epidemic of mass shootings.
It could be simply showing kindness to someone on the outside, making them feel welcome in a world that sometimes seems so hard to fit into. The act of providing someone with confidence to open up to you and feel safe when they’re struggling, instead of rejecting them, throwing them back on the outside, where it can feel so lonely and meek.
We should be accepting of others, letting them know it’s OK to struggle, to be sad, to feel afraid, to be anxious, because we all are at some point in our lives. To feel this way and then be made to feel like a defect for experiencing these human emotions is a new kind of pain, one that is horrendous and sometimes too much to handle all on your own. This is a contributing factor to why suicide is the leading cause of death among teens.
I don’t believe that all the perpetrators of mass shootings are psychopaths. I believe some are those struggling with mental illness and anger towards the world and themselves. I believe hopelessness is an extremely lonely emotion. It can cause people to deal with their anger in an unhealthy, extremely violent and tragic manner.
These emotions do not provide excuses for their actions, but if we could see it sooner and provide a more positive outlet, then maybe we as students at schools exactly like the ones where these shootings occur can prevent these catastrophes from occurring in our own neighbourhoods.
Ella Lane is a Grade 10 student at Claremont Secondary School.