Dear Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School,
You have made the list every school hopes to avoid…the school shooting list…the mass casualty list. The lock-down training you had, didn’t take into account a false fire alarm. The hide-and-go-seek plan didn’t work as well as you believed it would, because training cannot cover every possible scenario a sick mind can conceive. As teachers, you are aware of this fact, but you go to work anyway. And students come to school. Everyday.
Except today. The day after. The day after the unimaginable happened. The day after everything was turned upside down. The facts are still being pieced together, the investigation is ongoing. Rumors fly like the wind on cellphones and social media. Talking heads speculate. Politicians capitalize on tragedy to push agendas of one side or another. The noise is chatter and supposition, but no one knows the horror. No one gets what is was like to be inside that building hearing shots, seeing the losses. No one but you. So, hold onto one another.
Know that those of us who have trained to sit defenseless with our frightened students huddled in darkness are with you in thoughts and in prayers. You are living our nightmare. Today, we go through our minds and we take another look at our classrooms. We lock the doors and pull the blinds. We look for possible escape routes if we ever become you. We think, ‘Where would we go, if we were here?’ as we walk down each hallway. We wonder what would happen if we were in the cafeteria. We bring bats to school for “recess” and we leave them beside our doors. Hornet spray that shoots from long distances is in the cabinet in case we have “hornets” in our building. We carry our door keys around our necks, and teach children how to lock themselves in bathrooms and stand on toilets to avoid being seen. It is what fear demands of us, to be diligent, so we do not become you.
Yet, we all know it is possible, on any given day, a seemingly random event will reveal the truth, that our best laid plans evaporate when confronted with reality. Some lives are saved because of the training, but others are lost. And in the middle of it all, you are there grappling with the pain, shock, and the grief. Students ache for their friends. Parents cry in horror as they face empty bedrooms and tables. Administration is fending off the press, and trying to create a space for healing to begin, in the midst of all the fingers pointing in a million directions.
Bless you Stoneman. Bless you all. Please allow us to hold space for you. To lift our prayers, while you try to get your heads around the events of the day. Let us stand when you cannot, and hold you with virtual hugs that need no words. Give us the gift of carrying some of your grief so that we lighten your load. Let our tears be liquid prayers that mix with yours. Know you are not alone, and though we cannot possibly grasp what you are going through, we are with you just the same. As teachers, as parents, as students…as humans…we reach out to say you are cared for. You are loved, and your grief is felt in ripples across our hearts.
Please be with everyone involved in this horrible event. Hold up those who feel the losses, with your compassionate hand. Give them comfort. Surround them with your peace and grace. Bring them people who can walk with them, through the processing of the grief. Take their fears Lord. Give them sweet sleep that is nightmare/flashback free. I ask for the students to come together for one another during this time. To hold one another up, and to not allow this to separate or isolate them. I pray for unity among the student body. Give them healthy ways to express their grief. I pray for the parents who wake up today, without their children. God, please, please, comfort them. Give them the strength to get through the coming days, but also the years of empty places that are ahead. Send your people to uphold and surround them. Gather their tears. Be with the teachers, as they continue to do their jobs. Give them a voice. Open ears around them to listen to their fears. Help them to be strong for the students and parents, but not to forget to nurture themselves and find healthy ways to express their own feelings. Be with the administration of the school system. Help them to navigate all that is happening. Give them outlets to release their own grief, while still working through all that is involved with this type of event. Be with the investigators, the first responders, the medical teams, the injured victims and their families, and the family of the shooter. Many lives were scarred yesterday, Lord begin the healing process of the open wounds of the heart. Pour out your balm and begin to put the pieces of shattered lives back together. In Jesus name, Amen.