content warning: gun violence
When I was in fourth grade, I had glow in the dark stars on my bedroom ceiling and a collection of stuffed animals in a basket on my floor. My walls were painted with a white fence and flowers to resemble a garden that my mother had stenciled when we moved in. There was a wooden heart sign on the wall handpainted to read, Elizabeth’s Garden. My nightstand had a stack of library books and a case to put my eyeglasses—eyeglasses with small skateboards on the side and the words Rocket Power, after the television show, on the ear hooks.
When I was in fourth grade, I wanted to be a writer. My mother would buy me blank books from the craft store and I would lay on my bedroom floor imagining new worlds and adventures. I had mapped out an entire series I was going to write about a family that seemed to always be stuck in extreme weather. Each child in the family was going to narrate a different book about a different weather phenomenon. The year prior, in school, a teacher helped all of us laminate and bind short stories we wrote. Mine was about Peanut, Chestnut, and Walnut, a trio of cat siblings who fall into a magic mirror and end up in the jungle.
When I was in fourth grade, I had a brother in high school and a brother in middle school. We had unofficial assigned seats at the kitchen table and after dinner we would run to the basement to play Super Mario Brothers or Pokemon. I went to the high school jazz concerts of my oldest brother and the middle school cross country races of the other. Sometimes, if we were all brushing our teeth at the same time, we’d laugh about the toothpaste mustaches that sloppy brushing left.
When I was in fourth grade, my favorite breakfast was the “Super Duper Daddy Waffles” my father made (I believe the secret ingredients were lots of butter, syrup, and enthusiasm). My favorite dessert would have been the chocolate chip brownie recipe my mother made, passed down from her mother. I spent the holidays rotating around my extended family’s homes, playing Sardines with my older cousins and sneaking cookies from the table before dinner was served.
When I was in fourth grade, I had deep emotional connections with the world around me. I had friends and family that I loved and I had dreams about what my future would look like. I was a sister, a daughter, a grandkid, a niece, a neighbor, a cousin, a classmate, a student, a friend.
When I was in fourth grade, I didn’t have to do active shooter drills in school. My biggest concern was whether or not my friends would have the same teacher as I did in fifth grade. It never crossed my mind that some of them wouldn’t be there.
It’s easy to get lost in a tragedy of this proportion… where fourth graders become a number or a statistic. The reality is that these children were vibrantly alive yesterday morning. They woke up in the bedroom and ate their favorite breakfast and laughed with their friends and assumed they’d come home. I feel anger and frustration and deep, deep grief. It’s hard not to become numb in a country with more mass shootings than days in the year. In a country with 27 school shootings in the first 5 months of 2022. It feels impossible to imagine, comprehend, and grapple with not just the loss, but the inaction that traditionally follows from our leaders in government.
Within the grief, we must continue to show up and to fight for change. Here’s a short list of organizations working to end gun violence in the United States.