There are days that you look back upon as almost naïve in their normalcy. Days that start off with the usual mundane activities: drinking coffee, telling your children to brush their teeth 50 times in a row, sending off work emails about meetings that you don’t want to go to, dragging yourself to yoga, etc. When you look back on those days, you wonder how you couldn’t have known that something so powerful was coming. Something that would shift the way you see the world in such a way that a piece of you would never be the same. For us, last Wednesday, February 14th, was one of those days.
It was around mid-afternoon and we were hanging out together enjoying a lovely LA day, drinking tea and making self-deprecating jokes like we do. We shared stories about how our children were driving us nuts, who had posted what on social media, and what our plans were for Valentine’s Day. Normal. Boring. Peaceful. It was the kind of day we could only have while our kids were safe at school. Or at least, that’s what we like to believe. That they are safe.
Eventually we separated and went about our collective days assembling little Valentine’s Day treats for our girls, doing laundry, and prepping dinner. Within an hour of leaving one another the news broke. News we have all become too accustomed and too complacent in seeing. “Active Shooter Reported at a Florida School”. There it was. Yet another tragedy, at another school, on another day that started like any other. And our hearts broke, again.
There have been 29 mass shootings (defined as 4 or more killed) across the U.S. just since September, 255 since President Donald Trump took office on Jan. 20, 273 since the start of 2017. Over 200 school shooting incidents since the Sandy Hook Massacre, and, according to an ongoing Washington Post analysis, there have been “more than 150,000 students attending at least 170 primary or secondary schools that have experienced a shooting on campus since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. That figure, which comes from a review of online archives, state and federal enrollment figures and news stories, is a conservative calculation and does not include dozens of suicides, accidents and after-school assaults that have also exposed youths to gunfire.” Let that sink in a minute. We sure had to.
As the hours of the afternoon went on, we couldn’t look away from the tragedy unfolding before us and our anger built. Why?! How?! What the HELL is wrong with people?! When will enough children die before we all come together and say ENOUGH?! We’ve asked ourselves these questions too often before, but then we get overwhelmed and feel too small to make a change, so we unload with a few emotional IG posts and a rant on Facebook and hope THIS time is the LAST time we will ever have to worry about which school is next. But when our babies walked through the door from school that afternoon and we looked at their faces, it all became too real. Suddenly, fear shot through our hearts and we thought, ‘What if it had been them?’ And then that quickly became ‘WHEN will it be them?’
It was in that moment we realized that this time, we could no longer sit idly by. These are not someone else’s children who are being mowed down as they cower behind desks or in closets. These are ALL of our children who are growing up in a world where they are drilled to do so because we – the GROWNUPS – are doing nothing to protect them. NOTHING to take a stand and make a change and we knew that this time, we had do SOMETHING.
As the details of the horrific shooting continued to come to out, it was near impossible to watch our own children doing their homework and arguing over the last cookie while simultaneously seeing pictures of children filing out of classrooms with their hands over their heads without thinking about how lucky we were to have our kids safe while parents just like us across the country were facing the unimaginable. And then… the video. The video that a student posted live on FB of a classroom of students screaming and crying and begging for their lives, while rounds of rapid fire shots were blasting in the background. We lost it. This will not be the world that our children are given. We can not continue to believe that this will never affect us. If things do not change – and fast – there is absolutely no reason for either of us to believe that someday it won’t be our children’s precious faces flashing across screens around the world with the stamp of ‘VICTIM’ under their names. We can no longer stay frozen in fear and denial. We were furious. We ARE furious. And for a moment, we hated this world and everything in it. Then we remembered that hate is an emotion that only weighs us down in the mire of fury and inaction and there has been enough inaction. So now what?
We got on the phone together. ‘What are we going to do?’ We both knew we needed each other in order to jump into this head first. From there we started making calls. MomsRising, Moms Demand Action, publicists, agents and managers we all contacted with the questions, “How do we help? Who can we call? When can we act?” If we could have flown to Washington that night and stood on the steps of the Capitol, yelling for change, we would have. Give us a chance, and we will. Like everyone else, we are sick and tired of people acting like sending ‘thoughts and prayers’ actually helps a thing. Yes, they’re nice. Sure, they sound like they’re concerned. But we are past being nice and concerned. Our system is broken and no prayer in the world is going to fix it. Faith without works is dead and God damn it, now is the time for work.
We both began reading articles about gun control, from BOTH sides. We looked up statistics on gun deaths in the U.S. versus other countries, we read up on mental health and other countries responses to mass shootings. We called Senators and Congress offices. We sent emails to organizations like SandyHookPromise.org and contacted everyone we knew involved in political campaigns, grass roots movements and marches. We texted each other incessantly with ideas and then started watching the survivors of the shooting – those brave and amazing children – speaking up and out in ways that no adults have and knew we had to follow their lead. Because this generation is one that has never even known life without school shootings. They weren’t even born when Columbine happened and they sure as hell don’t want to die because nothing has really changed since.
We are not anti-gun. We are not anti-freedom. We are for change and progress and conversation. Something that this country is so desperately lacking at this juncture. Supporting the Second Amendment does not mean shouting it’s your right to have a gun and subsequently not caring if those who shouldn’t have access to them do. Supporting the Second Amendment means keeping guns away from kids, criminals and mentally unstable people. In fact, the Second Amendment is just one line that reads: “A well regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” It was written by men who had witnessed pandemonium and mob violence after the Revolution and felt it would be best to take the power from the states and delegate it to our new national government. The militias mentioned are completely unfamiliar to us today, and you might notice that there is no reference to an individual’s right to own a gun for self-defense or recreation. The U.S. Supreme Court didn’t rule that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual’s right to own a gun until 2008 (for more on this please read Michael Walden’s article HERE). Since then, it has become far too easy for the wrong people to get guns, a fact that is proven roughly 35,000 times each year by gun deaths in this country. Stricter gun laws, along with bans on assault riffles (it worked for Australia who have not had a mass shooting since doing so), is at least a start on stopping this madness, both of which can be done while supporting the Second Amendment.
We aren’t saying that guns are the only thing to blame here. As moms we are all too aware of the systemic failures in our education system. The Common Core State Standards Incentive, while well meaning, places far too much emphasis on academic success and forces our children to compete with each other as early as kindergarten when they should be focused more on learning social skills, empathy and kindness. Screens and social media have also taken their toll. A recent study found that clinical depression diagnosis’ in children and teens has increased 200% since the release of the iPhone. We are more connected than ever and yet because of that, we are also more isolated from actual human contact, and desensitized to pain and suffering as we are bombarded with post after post of tragedies happening everyday. Yet at the same time we are constantly seeing the ‘highlight’ real of everyone else’s lives causing feelings of unworthiness to manifest so deeply for some, that they become violent. Hell, WE feel those things as adults, so can you imagine what it must be like for the underdeveloped brains and emotions of our children? All of these things have culminated into the perfect storm. A storm made bloody, when guns can be obtained. Is there an easy solution for any of this? No. But we have got to start with the most obvious issues and move forward from there. Because as our children are yelling, enough is enough. Never again.
The usual bedtime routine for our girls that night felt less routine than ever. We had celebrated Valentines by making and eating far too much sugar. Our kids had argued and laughed, as usual. We had yelled and hugged them, then texted each other our best threats, as usual. But as we tucked them into their beds for the night, we both realized that those usual moments had been stolen from others that day. Those usual moments, which our day had started and ended with, had vanished for mothers and fathers in Florida, as they had far too many times for other mothers and fathers over the last 19 years. How many of them wished they had said something different as their kids walked out the door? How many of those parents wished they had one more hug or even one more obnoxious teenage eye roll from their child that night? As we kissed our children good night, we were both painfully aware that the world our kids live in today is light years away from the one that we grew up in. In this world, when we drop our kids off at school and tell them to be safe, we aren’t worried about them scraping a knee or even breaking an arm. What we really mean is ‘please be on the lookout for active shooters’, ‘don’t leave yourself exposed to the open part of your school where anyone could open fire’, and ‘Don’t die today’. With that realization, and broken hearts for those who no longer had children to tuck in at night, it fortified the work that we know is ahead of us all.The children are speaking, no SHOUTING, at us for something different. They are pleading with us to help them shift the world in which we ALL have to live. They are posting it, marching for it, calling “BS” on it and demanding it. We need to join them. We have ignored the calls of change for too long, hiding behind party lines, blaming the other side for doing nothing. Now is not that time. Will we be able to look our young people in the eyes and say, “I’m sorry. But you’re just not that important.”?! We cannot. We will not. And we don’t think you can either. The time has come everyone. The Time Has Come. Let’s go.
This is our plea. We want to be a part of the change that is surely going to come, even if it’s only in a small way, and we feel certain that other parents want the same. It doesn’t matter what side of the political line you are on. What matters is doing what’s right. What matters is keeping our children safe and not letting them fight this fight on their own. We know it’s possible for us to put our differences aside and come together. We’ve seen mothers move mountains before. We CAN do it again. We WILL do it again. Join us.
There is power in numbers. It’s time to take our power back. Here’s how:
1. Pledge to vote for gun safety!
2. Follow the NRA money. Find out which companies that you love give NRA membership discounts and contact them. Let them know you will no longer support their company. Look into which politicians take money from the NRA and let them know you will not vote for them should they continue to do so. Teachers with pension plans need to ask investment managers to divest from gun companies. If you are a teacher, you can locally request that your state pension plans divest from gun and ammo companies and block any future investments. This has already started to happen. Learn more HERE.
3. Get your friends to register to vote. Register together, vote together, make it a party. Just get it done.
4. Find out which local government seats are in trouble and where those seats stand on gun control. Identify who your swing congressman are and start sending them emails about needing stricter gun control laws. Let them know how you will be voting.
5. Connect with, donate to (every bit helps), and subscribe to the news letters of the following organizations to stay up to date on what’s happening and how you can help:
*You can also text MOMS to 747464 (RISING) to get onto MomsRising new (fabulous) text message action list, which gives people instant access to their Congressional Reps and Senators. They text you about once a week, and give you quick guidance on what to say before automatically connecting you to your Rep/Senator.
7. Donate to March For Our Lives. These students have made greater strides in changing our nation over the last two weeks than anyone else has over the last 19 years. They deserve all the support they can get. www.gofundme.com/8psm8-march-for-our-lives
8. Share this post to help educate and organize everyone you know. Together our voices are so much louder.
Our children are our lives. So let’s march.
– Jodie and Celia
*Special thanks to Brantly Aufill for his fact checking and resource recommendations.