A few weeks ago, my school had an armed intruder drill. But we didn’t know it was a drill.
The alarm went off, and my classmates and I got up from our desks and went through the motions that have been ingrained in us since Feb. 14, 2018. None of us knew if it was real or not—not even our teacher. Some kids freaked out. We all grabbed our phones, just in case we had to make a few final phone calls. While some of us were scared, most were skeptical. I knew it was fake, but I had no basis for this assumption. I just knew there was no way I was going to die in third-period chemistry.
A few months ago, my French teacher had us move desks. She asked if anyone wanted to sit in the front. One girl raised her hand. She joked, “I want the seat near the door, that way I’ll get shot first if a shooter comes.” People laughed.
For my generation, gun violence isn’t a possibility, it’s an inevitability.
When I die, where will I be? In the hallway? In class? Will I be in the bathroom? Who would I protect? Who would protect me? The intruder drills are a grim reminder each month. There is no guarantee of our safety at school or in this country.
I remember the first time I learned about school shootings. I came downstairs one morning, and the news was on. There was a shooter at an elementary school in Connecticut. I was 9 years old at the time. Barely older than the children being filed out of their classrooms, with dead classmates and teachers. I remember seeing posts on Twitter about a shooting in a nightclub—49 people were dead. It was a hate crime, targeted at a gay bar during Pride Month. I couldn’t process it.
I remember my mother waking me up one October morning. There was another one in Las Vegas—59 people were killed. I remember my best friend texting me on Feb. 14—17 people in Florida. I wasn’t even surprised. Just recently, five more people in Illinois. By the time this is published, undoubtedly, there will be many more.
My generation grew up with a constant cacophony of death, war and trauma. Terrorism, market crashes, Afghanistan, and school shootings. Some saw these horrors first hand. But most of us see them on our phones, an infinite influx of tragic news. My generation is angry. And sad. And scared. But most of all, we’re tired of living in a world where no one is guaranteed safety. Not at nightclubs. Not at concerts. Movies. Churches. Synagogues. Schools. We are never safe. So we must protect each other.
I’ve seen how my generation will come to each other’s defense. We are always ready to call out inequality and mistreatment. We refuse to be silenced, and we refuse to be complicit. Everyone I know has an opinion on politics. In this era, it is impossible to be ignorant and indifferent to current events. Politics exist in our everyday lives, and we are made aware of that fact every time another school falls victim to a shooting.
These issues are deeply personal. Any school could be next, and we have no way of knowing who it will be. Fear has become our new normal.
Fear can give way to three different reactions: fight, flight, or freeze. It is time for all of us to fight. We cannot continue to exist in a country where gun violence causes over 30,000 deaths each year. My generation cannot be forced to handle these problems on its own. This needs to be solved by all of us.
Kimberly Coke is a sophomore at Branham High School. On Thursday, she plans to join thousands of South Bay students plan a walkout to protest gun violence as part of a nationwide movement led by March for Our Lives. On March 30, the youth-led coalition will stage a rally on the Arena Green to amplify their message. For more information click here. Opinion are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside. Send op-ed pitches to [email protected].