Today marks 19 years since the Columbine High School shootings. But what was once shocking became a regular occurrence. How could we have ever known where this state of gun violence would end up?
In this final post in my three part series, I want to share my story with my peers, the rest of the Xenials/Millenials. A story of shock, inaction, repeated shock, inaction, indifference, and hope.
Columbine. Virginia Tech. Sandy Hook.
I was a senior in high school when Eric Harris and Dylan Kliebold went on a 51 minute shooting spree in their high school that ended up with 13 dead and 21 injured. The school year was almost over and I was looking forward to graduation in June. Life was pretty great in our sheltered pre-9/11 world where my biggest concern was what dress to wear to prom.
And in less than an hour, that innocence was taken away. I’d lived through the Oklahoma City bombing and Operation Desert Storm, but this was different. This could have been me.
As most tragedies go, the focus sadly shifts from the victims to the shooters in a very short amount of time. Why did they do it? Was it video games? Goth culture? Were they outcasts taking revenge? Even I pushed aside what happened as the news shifted to the shooters and then, when the 20/20 specials ran out of new content, moved on.
Several years later, with Virginia Tech, the same thing happened to me. Shock, anger, obsession, apathy. Then Sandy Hook, then countless others, and I stopped even being shocked.
My generation failed, big time. We could have been the ones who said enough with the thoughts and prayers. Do something. Stop this now. But we forgot. Moved on.
And then an old friend of mine got shot last year in Las Vegas. When he healed, I still did nothing.
Today kids walked out of class in solidarity to ask for gun reform. This culture of gun violence that gets normalized by the older generations with the thoughts and prayers has stopped with them. Why now? What makes them take action where their parents didn’t?
I truly believe that in addition to seeing their peers murdered on a regular basis, that social media has played an enormous role in their movement. Scott says “Your smartphone is all you need” and mentions the importance of Facebook Live (pp. 305-306). Though his writing is more in regards to marketing and PR, it still holds true for social movements. This generation grew up on social media, and they don’t hesitate to use it. Videos that are happening now, that are current, that are anything but what their parents would do to promote a cause. These kids can’t help but see what’s happening live all over the country, and the messages that spread so rapidly can create an urgency to act now.
Today, remembering Columbine, I still can’t help but feel a sense of guilt about my generation’s inaction. And yet I feel pride and hope and inspiration in these kids who have done what we failed to do. It’s not too late to join the fight.