The cover photo is a picture that I have been carrying in my wallet since 2005. The young woman in the picture is Cassie Bernall. Cassie was killed in the 1999 massacre at Columbine High school along with 11 other students and 1 teacher. I have her picture because of a song by Flyleaf called "Cassie". Cassie was the student that was reported to have been asked if she believed in God by the shooter, to which she answered yes, and was then shot. Her story was picked up as a modern day martyrdom and hence the song created in her honor. It has since been brought to light that the question was asked of a different student that was shot in the Columbine Massacre, Rachel, and not Cassie. The reason I have the picture was because I was struggling with my faith at the time and I thought that maybe by carrying this picture in my wallet it would serve as a reminder that at the end of the day, I believed in God.
I think one of the most striking things about the picture of Cassie when I pulled her up online after hearing the Flyleaf song was how familiar she looked. Yes, she does share similarities to myself but she also looks like my camp counselor from when I was growing up. She looks like a counselor I had named Emily Eagen. I had Emily and Gilly as counselors when I was in Cabin 8 and it was really an idyllic summer. These two young women were captivating and in my preteen state, they were everything I wanted to be when I was a teenager. I was shy and covered with acne and at the all camp dance Emily let me borrow her green dress that was way too big but made me feel super cool. She danced with me and my cabin mates and really helped us to feel secure in a really insecure time in a girls life. I remember her telling us stories about her life and one stuck out. She talked about how she took her car out late one night, after she wasn't supposed to be out anymore, and she and her car turned 100,000 miles together. I just turned 100,000 with my car last year and even 18 years after I heard her tell of this exciting moment in her life, I thought about her. I took a picture of my odometer on 100,000 miles and smiled to myself in appreciation for the reminder to notice the little things. Always keep noticing.
In 2000, I came down to breakfast on a pretty typical morning and my parents had already brought the newspaper in, breakfast was set, and I sat down to quick eat and book it to the bus stop. A beautiful blue-eyed girl was pictured on the front of the newspaper and it caught my eye. "Hey" I thought, "I know that girl". It was Emily Eagen, my counselor. I scanned the news for the story to see what she was up to and it turns out she was murdered in Costa Rica. Emily was visiting her friend who was doing some mission work there and both women were driven off the road and then shot execution style. I sat still. my 11-year-old heart hadn't had to deal with anything like this and I wasn't even really sure how to react. I called my girlfriend that was in my cabin with me and told her. She quickly got off the phone. I went up and showered and I remember all the sudden I had to sit down. I sat in the shower and cried. Later on in the week our Spanish teacher mentioned how those two girls should have been more careful in Costa Rica and what did they think would happen driving a nice SUV in that area at night? Something else new introduced to me that week was the concept of victim blaming. She had it coming.
I didn't grow up with guns. My parents didn't let us play with toys like toy guns or engage in violence if they could help it. But guns still impacted my life as a youth and continue to impact my life as an adult. Columbine was the first in what is now a long history of shootings that I have memory of. They weren't far away in scary places, but right here, in towns just like where I lived happening to people that were just like me and my friends.
When I was a sophomore in high school I was riding home with my friends Jess and Eric, Eric was driving. Jess and I were in the backseat playing with toy guns. Mine was teal and hers was metallic. Then the cops pulled us over. The cops said we pointed the guns at them. I never saw the cops so I can't really say if that's something I did or not but that was why we were pulled over. They took us out of the car and asked us where the guns were. I pointed back toward my seat where I left my cap gun. The officer pulled his weapon on me and told me not to move. Another first that day, I've never had a weapon pulled or pointed at me prior to or since then. The officers took polaroid photos of us right there by the car, made us put our fingerprints along the bottom white portion of the picture of ourself, searched the car, took shotgun shells from the trunk as evidence (Eric's dad was a duck hunter), and sent us on a our traumatized way.
I used to want to go into law enforcement. Mostly I wanted to work for the FBI or Secret Service or something because I love puzzling over details of things and I thought it would be meaningful and I that I would be really good at it. It turns out you really need police or military background to get into those types of jobs so I explored. I met with an Air Force recruiter and I think my mom may have actually shit a little in her pants. You saw the part above about how I wasn't allowed to play with toy guns or violent games etc.? My parents are pacifists and very anti violence, war, weaponry, etc. Far left. Anyhow, I decided being a police officer would probably be a better gig even though I loved the idea of flying planes. Too bad I had my driver's license taken twice before I was even 19, probably wouldn't have been a great pilot. Anyhow, I could work a desk job for the police and gain experience and maybe go to law school and work my way toward the FBI or Secret Service, I could live with that. I applied, got into, and accepted admission to Auburn in Alabama. I'd met with the criminal justice program folks and talked about their relationship with the Birmingham Secret Service and about internships and I was pumped. My senior year of high school was turbulent to say the least and after a lot of unforeseen events took place I ended up taking a year off from school after I graduated and did not move to the great state of Alabama to pursue my degree in criminal justice.
I stayed in Grand Rapids, MI after graduation and dated a guy for a while that had guns. He liked to go out to his Uncle's to shoot them. I was petrified of guns. But one day I told him I would give it a go. I went to the farm with him, held up the shot gun, someone released a clay pigeon and I fired the weapon. I did not hit the clay pigeon, I can't even say that I had my eyes open for sure. I kept the unbroken pigeon for years on my bookshelf as a reminder that I was never ever going to do that again. I was so sweaty. So sweaty. I can even remember exactly what I was wearing and what it smelled like because it was that kind of moment, huge impact.
I guess it's a good thing I didn't go into law enforcement because I'm pretty sure they would not have let me carry a slingshot instead of a gun and I would have just been sweaty all the time.You don't get promoted to the FBI and Secret Service if guns make you sweaty, it's an unwritten rule. So, I went to nursing school instead. I worked as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) while I was in college and loved it but I ended up changing from being a Nursing major to Communication. I graduated. Worked at the bank for a couple years. Much safer than law enforcement. Every branch I worked at (3) was held at gun point and robbed in my 1.4 year stint as a personal banker. All of my branches ended up with bullet resistant glass which none of them had when I started at any of them. But 3 times held up is safer than everyday on the job, right?
The economy was hard then and I was discouraged by all the bad news I had to deliver to my clients so as is the trend when the economy is down, I went back to school. I received my Master's Degree in 2013 and began working in higher education. I taught as a graduate assistant during graduate school and liked it and was offered a couple gigs so I stuck with it. 5 years later, I'm still teaching. I reflect back on my original interest in law enforcement and as a mother of 2 I think how that would be really hard for my husband and kids to have me go out into potential life threatening situations everyday.
Going to school is really safe.
This is the part where I have all of these websites and statistics about schools and school shootings and access to weapons. But that's not why I'm here. I don't even need to prove to you that there is a problem with increased gun violence or school shootings, or how we need to make changes. We all agree this is a problem. What we don't agree on is how to make it better.
I'm a teacher. Guns make me sweaty, a gun will never make me safe.
I'm a teacher. I begin each semester by creating a plan that puts me in between the class and the door as quickly as possible.
I'm a teacher. I memorize room numbers not so I know where they are but because I might need help in the case of an active shooter on campus and I need to know where to tell the police to go.
I'm a teacher. I flinch when someone comes to my classroom door.
I'm a teacher. I teach people and hope we don't die trying to learn.
There have been a lot of posts about how we need action and not prayers. AMEN. So take the time today to get to know the gun laws in your state. Take the time to find out where you can voice concern. Take the time today to find out if there are groups in your area working for change. Take the time today to BE the change.
Here are some links to explore and get started:
Have more links or events? Please share! I will add them here or you can add them in the comments. Email me to have me check them out and add them to this page! Lisa@lotusjos.com
Only positive discourse is encouraged. Please resist the urge to be a dick. If you have something to say, use your words and take the time to articulate your argument. Namaste.