It started as an ordinary January afternoon in the newsroom. I was working the broadcast desk for The Associated Press in Los Angeles, putting together stories for the state and national wire. A story crossed that made me let out a wail loud enough for a co-worker to ask if I was okay. A gunman with an assault rifle walked onto the playground of Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton and opened fire, killing five students between the ages of 6 and 9. I had to compose myself and put the story out on AP's state and national wires.
It was 29 years ago.
Flash forward ten years. A school shooting was underway at Columbine High School in Colorado. I was putting together my 3-hour newscast for KFBK radio in Sacramento and following the events unfold on live TV. It was a spectacle. Something we never saw. Children running. Hanging from windows trying to escape. A shooting at a high school? We were told for hours there were no reports of injuries let alone fatalities. But as soon as our 4 pm newscast began, we got the word that 12 students had been killed and one teacher. Another cry of anguish by me in the newsroom.
I've had to report on too many school shootings since then. I'm tired of crying and getting down on my knees praying for the victims and their families. It's not much, but I'm going to do something. I'm going to march with the students on March 24th.
The one and only time I participated in a demonstration was in college to protest a tuition hike. We cut classes and drove to the New Jersey state Capitol with thousands of other students from around the state.
I've watched the surviving students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas rise up and find their voices after 17 of their classmates and teachers were killed in yet another school shooting. Two of the victims had the names of my daughters, Alana and Alyssa. 29 years later nothing has changed. And we know the killings will continue. After the Las Vegas concert shootings, I wanted to do something. Anything. I took an 8-hour grief counseling course. I just wanted to take any small step to help if needed.
Working in news, we joked about the "protest du jour" at the state Capitol. There could be as many as three a day every day from various groups from around the state. But this is different. Where I once had to practice duck and cover drills in a school basement in the unlikely event of a nuclear attack, our children now have to step over bloodied, dead bodies of their classmates at their schools.
The children are rising up. I have a grandson in elementary school. How can I look him in the face and say I did nothing after 30 years of school shootings? A movement is taking fire. We don't want another innocent life lost. Terrified students trembling, hiding in closets. Parents waiting to hear from children who are not coming home ever again.
We may not have a solution but while we search for one, we can walk alongside our children, take their hands and say, I hear you. I'm listening. You're not alone. Before they have to attend another funeral of their slaughtered classmate.