It was just a normal day. Like any other. A track day in a sea of many my first year teaching. Sit down. Give that back to her. No it’s not yours, I saw her with it this morning. Your finger doesn’t belong in your nose and please quit comparing booger sizes.
All just bricks in the life of a teacher.
Until my phone rang.
One of my EBD kids levitated out of his desk shrieking, “IF THAT’S MY DAD I DIDN’T DO ITTTTT!!!!”
After Lazarus took a breath and chilled, I answered my phone. A friend. Asking me if I’m okay.
Um. No. Duh. First year teachers are NOT okay. We are friggin crazy.
And then she asked if I’d seen the news.
So I went to my computer and within a few clicks, my world was in suspension between reality and hell.
Oh. My. God. Oh my God.
Shaking hands. Unsteady feet. Unsteady feet and shaking hands. Must find the nearest phone.
Oh my God.
Dialed. Busy. Dialed again. Dialed so many times my fingers lost their balance. Busy.
And then finally within a moment all suspension and paralysis and madness just stopped.
My brother had picked up his phone.
His voice said Hello.
And because of this I had all the proof I needed. I was still a sister and he was still my brother.
This kind of paralysis is unforgettable. I remember each movement. Each footstep. Each dial. Each busy signal.
Once you have a loved one steps from a mass shooting, that sort of intermission between awareness and hello is the longest distance you will ever crawl.
You see, my brother, my brother Brad was in the building next door to the Virginia Tech shooting.
So when I get a bit opinionated about policy and about change and about prevention you can understand that a fractured second or a minor incision could’ve altered the suspension and I would be without my brother.
As in, my brother was the Resident Director on duty the day of the shooting. When an RA (that he himself hired because of his go getter attitude) called and said there was someone with a weapon, my brother was the one who should’ve taken charge over the situation. But, the RA, being who he was, decided to handle it himself.
His leadership cost him his life as he was the first one killed in the Virginia Tech mass shooting and it gave my brother his.
These were all pieces and parts that I learned about years later.
All I knew in the moment was that there was a shooting and that my brother was alive.
And my family, my brother, me-we are all the lucky ones. My brother walked away.
As I think of all the memories that would never be if that day had turned out different, it puts me back in that place where everything was unsteady.
As a seasoned educator, I watch suspicious vehicles in the parking lot, wondering who’s inside and what they have. As a Christian, I look for the nearest exits in my church and I actually sit right next to one. I chose this particular one because there’s an outside door right next to the sanctuary exit door. As a patron, I don’t sit in my favorite spot in the movie theater anymore-straight to the top and in the middle-because what if? I sit on the first row of the risers next to the exit.
There’s such a fine balance between opinions and what is right that it gets blurred over with cloudy versions of who deserves to have what. I wish with all of my heart that the second amendment wasn’t a partisan issue. I wish with all of my heart that the second amendment was an approachable subject. Sadly, it is surrounded by a sea of eggshells.
And please don’t get me wrong. I fully support owning a gun to protect yourself and your family. Even though I don’t like it, I support owning guns for hunting. Nothing about any of those things bothers me. What bothers me is the fact that semi automatic weapons are entirely too easy to purchase.
But a semi automatic weapon purchase cost over thirty lives that day. Unfortunately, I have to relive that day each and every year when I go through my required active shooter training for work. I can tell you how each classroom responded to the shooter and how each response equated to how many lives lost. I can tell you all of that.
And I relive that day over and over each time a mass shooting happens. Each and every time.
What I can’t tell you is how heartbroken I am that I need to know these things for the protection of my kids. I teach in a Title One school. Most of my kids come to school for sanctuary. I’m sure most kids attended Sandy Hook for sanctuary and their safe place ended up being their undoing.
What I can’t explain to you is the magnitude of thankfulness that envelops me when my brother picked up that phone. My anxiety collapsed on itself and folded away so quickly that I nearly fainted.
What I can’t comprehend to you is the bittersweetness in that revelation. So so many people are no longer brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, grandparents because someone purchased a semi automatic weapon that shouldn’t have.
Perhaps the day will never come when two sides can agree to sit down and have a civil conversation. Perhaps these shootings will just keep occurring. But perhaps the day will come where we can agree that something has to change and that something needs to be hearts AND policy. I pray for this day. I have hope for this day. I have hope for the contents to be validating and sure and agreed upon.
But until that day, my truth lives in that suspended moment. My truth is bigger than my opinion. My truth is.
And because my brother survived, I get to eat turkey with him in two weeks. Because my brother survived, he still puts his nasty stinky size 13 1/2 feet in my face, even at thirty two years old. Because he lived, he surprised me with Hamilton tickets last March because he knew how badly I wanted to see it.
I’m just saying.
And because my brother survived, I hang on to hope that a conversation can happen and the need to be right can be shelved for the need to save lives.
I love you, Brother Brad.