Evelyn, Hallie, and William were 9-year-olds, the age when children begin to understand being liked and seeking approval—daydreaming or drifting off into another world, their world, which is a new and interesting one. Most nine-year-olds are in the fourth grade, and hanging out with friends has begun to become a big deal. These young hearts would have started engaging in long, detailed conversations about random topics, such as whales or why an additional day should be added to the weekend. At age 9, they would have become more thoughtful and passionate. Their innocence, yet curious nature about the world and their future, would be becoming more apparent. They would begin to see the world differently, such as understanding that we do not live in a perfect world; however, they would be discovering ways to handle complex issues and developing confidence in their future endeavors.
Evelyn, Hallie, and William were taken from this world yesterday at the very place they attend every day. A place they were more than likely most comfortable aside from their own home, at school.
As many of us could never fathom our children being taken away by violence, much less by a gun at school, the grief of the families of these children must only be described as "unbearable." Yet, with many unanswered questions, we again experience another school shooting. These families knew their children's dreams and the topics they were interested in and were experiencing the excitement their 9-year-old child displayed about this stage in life. Memories they will cherish, heartache they can't explain, and the biggest question, "Why?" Why were innocent lives once again taken at a school?
Not only were Evelyn, Hallie, and William taken in such a heinous way, but three adults were also taken away by gunfire. Mike Hill, a beloved custodian at the school; Cynthia Peak, a substitute teacher; and Katherine Kooce, listed on the school's website as "Head of School." In their separate arenas of education, all three adults were there for the children, sacrificing their lives for the children, simply coming to school as the children did, as if it was just a regular day.
Attending a school like any other day, these children and adults did precisely what they all did with a smile and confidence, looking forward to what the new day would bring. Just like we do when we drop our children off at school or the bus stop or wish them a good day as they walk to campus.
Most of the news stories focused on who the shooter was, her lifestyle, how she identified, and her motive. However, according to the K-12 School Shooting Database, there have already been 89 school shootings in the US, defined as a gun discharged on school property. Last year we experienced 303 incidents, as we remember the multitudes of school shootings in years and years past. Yet, this incident continues, it seems, with no resolve. At this point, details of the shooter are somewhat newsworthy, but in the larger scape of a repeated picture, the resolve is what parents and families need to know.
Moreno Valley, can you imagine waiting to see if your child is safely returned to you after a school shooting, just as parents did at The Covenant School in Tennessee yesterday? And for that matter, it is not just this particular shooting, is the epidemic of deadly school shootings that our most cherished family members attend each day. Can you visualize the emotion, the grief, the devastation? This epidemic can happen anywhere, and to our most vulnerable and innocent of society, it can happen here.
Of course, meaningful actions are already set in place, such as lock-downs, teaching the children on the protocol if there is an active shooter on campus, comprehensive safety plans, and locked gates. Unfortunately, the fact is, and proven once again, these steps are not working. However, in 2022 a large-scale "active shooter drill" was staged on a Moreno Valley campus which included approximately 400 law enforcement officers, role players with visual and audio effects for realism, and 150 first responders. It is not known whether this scheduled drill was the result of events in Uvalde, Texas, where an investigation indicated police officers wasted time, exhibited indecision and fear for their own lives, and left the children at the shooter's mercy for over an hour where 19 students and two teachers were killed.
Knowing our community has excellent training in handling an active school shooter gives us some confidence, which may be what we have to hold onto in protecting our children. Combined with the many steps taken within the safety plans and the education of staff and students, we must rely on what has been done and hold onto the hope our children are safe.
More must be done, but there is no clear answer to the consistent school shootings and how to stop them. We can only do what is in front of us, such as talking to your children without making them afraid to go to school. Explain that although it may never happen, make them aware. Follow the protocol, find out what the protocol is if your child is outside in the event of an active shooter, and ensure school is typically safe.
We are a strong community Moreno Valley. But we live in a nationwide society where we must raise strong, intelligent, and aware children. So, have that talk with your children, ask the city government what more can be done to protect our schools and what we can do to support the safety of our schools.
We will not allow Evelyn, Hallie, William, and others before them to be taken in vain. It is time for a change.
Please register and follow me on Newsbreak by downloading the app. Find something positive in your day, even amid tragedy, such as holding onto your family a little tighter. Our hearts as a community go out to the parents and families of the six taken by another school shooting and be assured Moreno Valley will remember them and their lives will pave the road to safer schools in our community.
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