Community Forum, Family, Life, Parenting / August 6, 2019

Parenting In The Wake Of Mass Shootings

I woke up on July 29th to a news alert that said there was a mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California. I knew that my best friend had plans to go to the festival with her family that weekend. As I frantically scrolled through the article for names of the victims, I couldn’t help but cry as I pictured my friend of 25 years running for her life while trying to protect her 10-month-old and 5-year-old sons. When I read that 6-year-old, Stephen Romero, had been killed, I was overwhelmed with grief for his parents and his family.

6-year-old Stephen Romero, victim of the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting
Stephen Romero, courtesy of Facebook

I imagined the pain of losing one of my children in such a horrific attack and thought of all of the other families who were there that day. While they may not have suffered life loss or gun shot wounds, their lives are forever changed. As a mom, it has been the shootings at events like this one, in Dayton, Ohio, in El, Paso, Texas, at schools and at movie theaters, that force me to evaluate the places we go and the things we do as a family.

Where is the nearest exit? How fast can I get my son out of the stroller? Should we designate a meeting point in case something happens? But the toughest question I face: do I really have what it takes to save them? And that’s what keeps me up at night. Even if I am standing right next to them, can I protect them from a wave of bullets? Will I react fast enough? And the worst of all, can they live without me? Would they be ok, if I go?

People gathered at a vigil for the victims of the Dayton, Ohio shooting
People gathered at a vigil for the victims of the Dayton, Ohio shooting
Courtesy of Maddie McGarvey

I live in Washington, DC and while it may be the safest place in the country due to preparedness for terror attacks, it is an obvious target. When there are major events downtown you can see snipers in open windows above the crowds and while it makes you feel protected, it also is glaring proof that there are substantiated threats of a potential attack. As a parent and an American, I stand with the lawmakers who are fighting for stricter gun laws, no question. I want to be part of the conversation and I want to take action but I also have a responsibility to my children right now. I have to consider their safety and well-being in every decision that I make.

My daughter will start PK3 later this month at an elementary school and I can’t help but fear that a former student, older sibling, parent or stranger could enter the school with the intention of killing her. That feeling is real and it’s hard to deal with but she is 3 years old, and as her mother, I also have to protect her spirit and her innocence. I have to teach her about all of the beauty in the world. I have to teach her how to love, how to be a good friend and how to give back to the world we live in.

Drawing depicting a boy hiding in his school
Schools are participating in active shooter drills 
Courtesy of Jackson Joyce

I can’t teach her how to use a bulletproof backpack as a shield and I can’t explain to her why someone might come into her school with a gun. I can’t do it, because I can’t take away her enthusiasm for life or her excitement when she walks to school every day. I have to put my faith and trust into her teachers and administrators and believe that they will do whatever they can to protect her while she is in their care.

Faith is what I need to get through each day and action is what we, as a country, need for the future. We are in a moment of great opportunity for change with the upcoming election and while we may no longer be the land of the free, we have the opportunity to be brave and stand for what we believe in. Educate yourself, find your voice and be a part of the solution.

How do you talk to your children about mass shootings? How do you feel sending them to school each day? Share your thoughts and stories with us.

Anna Fecskes

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