I remember waking up Friday, December 14th and turning on the TV to hear the local news, as I do every morning…and I couldn’t believe it. Around 9:30am, Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT was stricken by a selfless act of violence that took the lives of 20 angelic children and 6 brave adults.
I feel like every day we hear of a gruesome tragedy somewhere around the world. And every day we become more and more desensitized. The world is filled with so many monsters that nothing they do seems to surprise us anymore. But enough is enough. Something needs to be done. Regardless if you believe we should have better gun control or not (and I hope all of you believe that we do), one thing you can and will agree with me on the following:
We need to have a better system to protect our students in our schools.
After learning more and more of who the victims were, the brave teachers/faculty members who will forever be remembered as heroes, the murderer, his mental state, his mother…I become more and more angry that this wasn’t stopped before it happened…one way or the other. Whether some believe this boys access to guns lead him to do this, whether some believe this boy should’ve been hospitalized in a mental institution long, long ago, or whether some believe the school needed better security. Whatever you believe, one thing is certain…and that is that all these factors played a tremendous part in this tragedy.
I can’t speak off of experience of having a gun. I can’t speak off of experience in knowing anyone who needs to be hospitalized in a mental institution. But I can speak off of experience regarding better security in our schools – it happened with me this past Tuesday, 4 days after the Sandy Hook tragedy.
It was around 1 o’clock this past Tuesday, when I headed over to a middle school to pick up a 12 year old girl, per her mother’s request. We’ll call this girl, “Jen.” The child, Jen, was sick and was at the Nurse’s office waiting to be picked up. I arrive at the school premises. It was my first time there. I drive around the school once to find only one parking spot…and it was marked “restricted.” But after I passed it, I remember Jen’s mom telling me that I can park anywhere since it won’t take long to simply pick her daughter up. So I thought I’d just park there. But because the lot around the school was a one way, I had to do another lap to get back to where the parking spot was. As I was doing that, I realized how far that parking spot was from the main entrance of the school…and it was raining. But, it was either that, or parking right in front of the entrance at a non-spot/emergency-no parking zone. I decided to park on the restricted zone – chose the lesser of two evils, I guess. (You’ll understand why all the details.)
Anyway, I leave my car, and throw on the hood of my hoodie on my head. (FYI: I was wearing black boots, black pants, and a black north face fleece over a dark grey sweater.) I make my way (walking) all around the school to reach the main entrance. I see tons of cars all around but other than that, nothing else; no one else. I finally make it to the front door entrance. It was very quiet and kind of sinister to be honest because the entrance looked deserted. Not only was it already gloomy because of the weather, but there was no light, no windows, nothing. I search around to look for a door bell but didn’t find one. At this point I’m wondering if that was really the main entrance. Well, I walked back and looked again on the walls and found the sign that read “Main Entrance.” So it was definitely there. I walk back closer to the door and notice that one of the doors was left ajar. I make my way in, slowly, thinking “Man, I can’t just go in!” But as the door slowly opened I realized that nobody was there so it was either me walking in or waiting for no one to come get me. So I walk inside the school. I look to my left, and about 3-4 yards away, I see 3 students sitting on the floor in front of their lockers, talking. I look to my right and see that the main office door was the closest to the entrance I just walked in through. (Remember, I’m going to the nurse’s office to pick up Jen). So I peek my head inside the office where there was a faculty member sitting behind her desk. I say, “Hi, I’m looking for the nurse’s office.” Very nicely, she says: “Oh sure! Right down this way,” as she pointed to the way I needed to walk towards. I thank her and continue walking towards the Nurses office. I find the sign that says: “Nurses Office.” I walk in and say, “Hello?” No answer. I walk into one of the 2 offices inside the nurse’s quarters, peak my head in and again I say, “Hello?” A gentleman gets up out of his chair, behind his desk, and says “Hi!” I say, “Hi, I’m here to pick up Jen. She should be with the nurse.” He says, “Oh okay!” He walks into the other room and tells whoever is in there: “Hey, is Jen here? There’s someone to pick her up.” The woman from inside the room yells out: “Oh yes, she went to grab her coat; she’ll be right back!” I heard her, but the gentleman looks at me and repeats what the woman had said, as he walks back to his office. At this point, I’m thinking to myself: “Um, shouldn’t she want to know who I am?” So I walk inside the woman’s office, (who happened to be the nurse) and I say, “Hi! I’m Anna, I’m the one picking up Jen.” She smiles and says: “Hi there! She should be right back; she just went to pick up her coat.” Confusingly, I say, “Okay, thank you.” Less than a minute later, a little girl walks in the Nurse’s quarters holding her coat. She smiles to me and I say: “Hi Jen, ready to go?” She nods. Jen walks into the nurse’s office to let her know she was all set. She then walks out with me. We both walked all the way to my car, got in my car, and off we went.
Now, I am CERTAIN that you see all of what was wrong here. And like me, you are probably appalled by the lack of security in this school. From being able to make laps around the school, park in a restricted zone, walk alongside the school without anybody confronting me or asking who I was, to the ease of walking past the main entrance, to not ever being questioned, to picking up a student without being identified. SO MUCH was wrong.
I don’t look like someone who would want to bring a gun to a school and shoot innocent people, nor do I look like someone who would abduct a child. But who can justify what mental state a person is in based on their looks, especially now a days? History and recent occurrences have proven that evil does not always have a face; it doesn’t have a certain look. Monsters don’t look like monsters. Monsters fit in and they fit in well enough to carry out their malicious deed.
So what about this school? Like many others, the security is lacking…sometimes completely. I wasn’t even asked MY NAME!!! Just wrap your mind around that for one second… This seriously needs to change. FACULTY MEMBERS, TEACHERS: PLEASE, BE MORE ALERT!
Two days after this incident, I engaged in a conversation with my dad. He had some great incite on what could be done in our communities…involving each city’s police force. He said:
“Instead of cops sitting in their police car by roads to catch drivers driving 10-15 mph over the limit in order to meet their quota, why can’t they take turns and visit the schools in their cities on a regular basis a few times a day [during different times of the day] to make sure things are running smoothly?…a police car parked in front of a school can potentially inhibit someone from doing something malicious…the same way it can inhibit a driver from driving above the speed limit…”
This made me think a whole lot. Why? Because a) it’s true and b) it can be done. Is this the answer to stop the violence in our schools? Absolutely not. There is a lot more that needs to be done! But will this help keep out schools safer? Yes, I truly believe it. It’s inexpensive and it’s something that is within every community’s reach.
Throughout the week, we’ve heard of many solutions to stop this violence. One of which was the following: “Having an armed guard present every day in school…” Some agree with this and some disagree. But no matter what your thoughts are on this “solution,” I guarantee that we all feel the same exact way when it comes to what we feel the role of a police officer is: TO PROTECT AND TO SERVE. So shouldn’t they? Serving and protecting our children is and should be part of their everyday obligation. And I believe it can start right away.
Sandy Hook Elementary School…Newtown…State of Connecticut…our hearts go out to you. This nation mourns with you. You will forever be in our thoughts and prayers.