“We have to go,” my best friend said as she grabbed my hand and pulled me down the main hallway of the third floor, passing by the shoe and hair exhibits. We ran until we saw one of our teachers with a few of our classmates huddled around her. We entered a small corridor somewhere else on the floor and were silent until we were able to leave. Still holding hands, we sprinted across the street, which was now dotted with police cars and ambulances, until we reached the Washington Monument. No one had told us yet what was happening, but one of my classmates had figured it out and word had quickly spread. Someone had entered the museum with a gun and began a rampage. One man was dead. Another was wounded. The date was June 10, 2009. I was on a school trip to Washington, D.C., with my eighth grade class. We were in the National Holocaust Museum. I was 14 years old.
For a while, I genuinely didn’t think it had affected me; I didn’t see the gunman, nor did I see anyone get shot. I just figured it would be an intense story to tell someday. No one else had a story like this, right? Well, this may have been true at the time but, unfortunately, this is becoming an increasingly common experience among Americans—especially among students.
Hearing the news out of Parkland, Florida, was devastating and infuriating, but also just par for the course at this point. It is just this week’s shooting. Next week we’ll hear about another one, send our thoughts and prayers, post angrily on Facebook then move on to the next one. We’ll tweet at Trump, post links to Huffington Post articles and share “Now This” videos, but still nothing will change.
This is not how it should be. We should not be used to seeing this in our newsfeed or in our notifications. We should not expect that our government will just sit idly by. We should not be forced to accept this as a part of life. There is nothing natural about a child dying.
It has been nine years since the National Holocaust Museum shooting, and I still find myself terrified at the most seemingly trivial things. I usually stay home on the Fourth of July because I can’t stand the sound of fireworks. It can take me hours to fall asleep because I am scared I will have a violent dream. I feel anxious to have my back turned to people. And I am only one person out of thousands, possibly millions, of people who are dealing with feelings similar to or worse than these.
Declaring your outrage on social media is accepted. Anyone who is friends with me on Facebook knows that I certainly do not shy away from doing this. And yet, posting on social media is not enough. We need to continue to fight outside the confines of the internet.
I encourage you to call your congressman and express your outrage. Write them letters. Send them emails. Vote in every election (local and otherwise). Host discussions. Attend protests. Support organizations that are pro-gun regulation. Talk to survivors and their loved ones. There is so much you can do; listing everything would require a second newspaper. Using social media as your only form of protest is a type of bystander behavior. Be ready and willing to do more. Let it be known that shootings can no longer be an inevitability in our country. Fight back.