It Can’t Just Be Another Wednesday

It Can’t Just Be Another Wednesday

School was canceled because a woman was loose in Denver with a gun. This shouldn’t be normal.

See the published version of this article in The San Francisco Chronicle or Global Student Square. Graphic by Milo Martinez.

He loves “Peppa Pig.” I’m sitting on my neighbors’ couch, babysitting their 2-year-old son because preschool was canceled today, and we’re watching “Peppa.” He doesn’t know why he’s still in his pajamas on a Wednesday morning.

I’m a high school senior, with more than 12 years in school, and having class canceled because of a shooting threat is something I haven’t experienced before.

My school has been threatened by guns, but those lockdowns only resulted in increased police presence on campus, some concerned parents — and, once, the appearance of the SWAT team.

Never before has school been canceled.

The Denver Post reported that a woman at large was “infatuated with Columbine,” and had purchased a shotgun after arriving in Colorado this week. Three days before the 20th anniversary of the shooting at Columbine High School, where 13 lives were lost, this information is particularly painful. That tragedy continues to cycle through our nation’s public conversation on gun violence. This is not because we want to remember the past, but because shootings continue to be America’s present.

This morning, I watched my mom, who remembers placing flowers on the long row of Columbine High memorials years ago, break down in tears while watching the news. A part of her, understandably, is terrified for us. I never want to text her and my dad “I love you” from a locked school broom closet. But, at 18 years old, I don’t know a world where that thought doesn’t come to mind sometimes.

School shooting threats are common. Lockdown drills and March for Our Lives events have characterized much of my high school experience. Maybe it’s because I live in Denver, less than a half-hour drive from Littleton, the quiet suburban community surrounding Columbine High School. Or perhaps it’s because, since I began my ninth-grade geometry course, I have heard the stories of lives lost in Orlando, Las Vegas, San Bernardino, Annapolis, Md., and Parkland.

This time, I am surprised that the suspect being hunted is a teenage woman. I don’t mean to stereotype — young women are capable of violence — but a “massive manhunt” for an 18-year-old female is a departure from the usual headline. Still, the fact that the suspect’s gender was more startling to me than the fact that she has a gun is concerning — I’m getting too used to this.

I’m becoming too accustomed to the headlines, the funerals, the vain hope for change. I can feel the numbing, the normalization, the faint pit in my stomach that settles and stays there.

It isn’t OK. My younger sister’s soccer practice was canceled Tuesday night because now it’s dangerous to have a large group of children together in a public place. Her team is considered an “easy target.” A toddler’s mother had to text me Wednesday morning hoping that I could watch her son, kept home by a hunt for a shooter, while she went to work. Thousands of students are missing science tests, reading lessons and art projects because there is somebody in my city with a gun.

There is nothing about this that is normal.

It should not be ordinary.

It cannot be just another Wednesday.

Yet, here I am, watching “Peppa Pig” and refreshing the news page on my phone, waiting for the latest update.

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