By Torin Ives
I think you all can understand what I mean when I say we have to mentally prepare ourselves to go to school. We brace ourselves for the new assignments, the judgmental look on your teacher’s face when you tell them you forgot the homework, the failing quiz grade you’re about to get handed. But nowadays, those of us who attend a high school have to mentally prepare another way. We have to prepare for the possibility of losing our lives, each and every day.
It seems like every other week there is a school shooting, or a threat made, or some chaotic disaster that occurs in a school. But, only the worst ones, where dozens of people die, are highly covered by the news. It’s become such a regular occurrence that I’ve stopped flinching when someone tells me their classmate threatened to shoot them. It wasn’t until I was actually at the school where the threat was made that I realized we need to stop accepting this as our reality.
Some of you may know that on Monday, Sept. 17, 2018, East Grand Rapids High School went into a partial lockdown due to a threat to a student’s life. This incident was considered minor, and it was barely covered by local news stations. I’m not saying we deserved more news coverage, but I am saying that we shouldn’t allow this event to be unimportant and insignificant. I was there. I was locked inside that building. And it was a much bigger deal than the news made it seem like.
I was sitting in our newly remodeled library with a few of my friends during first hour on Monday. We were procrastinating and goofing off until someone noticed all the lights in the office were turned off. I saw no-one. I looked out the massive windows covering the front of the library and saw several police vehicles. My heart stopped. I immediately assumed the worst.
My first thought was to text my mom and tell her I loved her, possibly for the last time. My second thought was wondering who it was. Who was doing this to us? Then lastly, I thought of myself. What could I do, right now, to make sure I left this building alive? I thought of the procedures we went over at the beginning of the year. I pulled out my phone and sent short-winded texts to my mom. A screenshot of what I thought was going to be our last conversation is included below.
Thankfully, the suspect was apprehended and the lockdown was lifted before the end of the school day. The situation could have ended much worse, but our school officials were very prompt to take action and ensured the safety of all students.
I am currently dual enrolled at both East Grand Rapids High School and Grand Rapids Community College. At the beginning of the year for high school, we went over safety procedures in every classroom. I was surprised to learn that college classes don’t have specific plans for what happens if one of your classmates threatens to shoot you. As sad as that is, I’ve come to see that at this point, we are responsible for ourselves.
Simply not talking about these events is not going to solve the problem. We as students must step up to the plate and stop accepting lockdowns as the new normal. Continuing the conversation and working towards ending school shootings is essential to our lives, and the lives of countless others.
That is what I hope the readers here can gain from my story. If we want to see a change, we have to make a change. This change can be as simple as being nice to each other and offering a friendship.
If someone you know is struggling, reach out. If you personally are having negative thoughts or thoughts of harming others, seek help. Talking to each other is all that we can really do, and just communicating our thoughts and feelings could mean the difference between life and death.
Take care of yourselves. You do not want your school’s name to be the next headline. Trust me, I know.