I PUT up the cardboard, keep my class of 16- and 17-year-olds silent – or as silent as I can, and wait for the all clear. It’s routine. Routine to prepare for an active shooter.

Routine to prepare to push a class roster under your door, confirming how many survivors you have in your classroom. To wonder which troubled kid might crumble so much, be so full of loathing that today is the day they pick up the family gun.

You wonder what else you can do to prevent it. You call home, keep in contact with parents, try to connect with the seemingly silent students, the ones who don’t care enough, or who care too much.

You watch them everyday hoping that your kid … because they’re all your kids.

You carry them in your heart. They’re your first thought in the morning, and your last thought at night … Hoping that it won’t be one of your kids. That it won’t be because you never took the time to notice their needs.
You do what you can.

You do everything you can. Statistics tell me that it will not be enough. Yesterday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, tells me that it will not be enough. And the ones who can do something – the ones who are able to, will choose to do nothing. Because that’s what they’ve always chosen.

Eighteen times this year and counting. Because they don’t even do something when four and five-year-olds – whisper it … white four- and five-year-olds – are killed. So you know.

You know that every year, when the careless sun is beating down on the softball field, when the new intake of baby-faced freshmen scuttle through the corridors, when last year’s juniors embrace you, excited to finally have the finish line in sight. You know.

You check to see if the closet has, Narnia-like, extended into a magical world. Whether you can do anything other than choose who you might save. Whether moving your desk, to the sound of the Titanic’s endless violins, whether … anything. When.

The author teaches in the same area of Broward county, Florida, as Stoneman Douglas High School

Joanna Petersen

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