I wish I knew

What happened today? It isn’t anything new, really. I  know innocent people are lost all the time. Those children in those far off places I’ll probably never visit. I know about drones. Those kids in the part of town I avoid. All those kids locked in the New Orleans drug wars, reported on by the New Orleans news, every single night. I know there are unchecked problems in our world. I  know life is random and often cruel.

Why did this one hit me so hard?

Knowing that the children were so close in age to my own child. The setting. School, that “safe” place we send our children to experience the world beyond our home. My child has only been in a school for a total of six months. Of course I’ve thought terrible things about the terrible things that could happen there, but I made myself dismiss those and trust that there is more good than bad in our world. I didn’t immediately rush to get him this morning when I saw the news on CNN. I didn’t rush to get him when I read the AP alerts. I didn’t rush to get him when the barrage of facebook posts began. I made myself wait until it was close to our usual pick up time. I cried the whole way there. I sat in the parking lot, regained composure, and watched another Mother carefully buckle her child into his seat. Made sure to smile at her. Got out the car and slowly walked to the school building. Slowly. Started to cry again when I opened the building door. Hoping no one would be right there in the lobby, yet ready (and wanting) to talk about why I was crying and even say something about how happy and thankful I was to be here picking up my son, on this day especially. The school was eerily quiet. I was unsettled. The walk back to his room was the longest ever. I watched him for a minute before opening the door. He was with another small boy, playing quietly with a fire-truck and ambulance, of all things. I started to tear up again, but immediately snapped-to as soon as he saw me. There he was. His teachers looked as if they had heard the news and were visibly shaken, but I didn’t have the strength to say anything about it to them then. I didn’t want to bring out waves of emotion that would, more than anything, be confusing and upsetting to a group of 18-36mo children. I smiled, thanked them and wished them a restful weekend. I held my son all the way to the car and told him how happy I was to see him. At least that was no different than what happens every day.

Why did this one hit me so hard?

I hate guns. Two people in my life ended theirs, with a gun. I hate the gun rights arguments. This isn’t the colonial era. I have a very hard time visualizing the solution. My childhood idol, John Lennon, killed by a gun. My husband’s childhood idol and surrogate father-figure, John F Kennedy, killed with guns.  I hate the mixed-up mess that is background checks, mental health issues and vigilante behavior. I don’t know if I really believe there is a solution. I fear a gun ban would lead to riots led by crazed armies of extreme right-wingers. I don’t know. Give peace a chance? I don’t know. Ban guns, stop cutting mental health services, increase funding to mental health services and public education about mental illnesses and post more research about correlations? I don’t know. I wish I knew.

Why did this one hit me so hard?

My friends are teachers. I worked in schools for six years. Schools are not fortresses. Children and their teachers are in school for education, not warfare. The last year I worked in the classroom I was pregnant. In once of my teaching jobs I was a teaching artist for a New Orleans non-profit called “Silence is Violence”.  The organization referred to us as “peace club facilitators” and the idea was to bring artists into classrooms with at-risk youth and their teachers and a social worker to (attempt to) give the kids an opportunity to express their thoughts on violence in New Orleans by using the arts. They still do this program, and they employ wonderful, brave, giving and inspiring people. I worked at an alternative high school (at the time located on the corner of Freret and Napoleon). When I was 6 months pregnant I was caught up in a fight between two 15/16 year old girls. I was standing between them and one said something awful about the other’s friend who had just been killed, by a gun. Something along the lines of he got what he deserved. The girl on the receiving end of the insult picked up her computer keyboard and threw it hard at the other, and then the insult-giver proceeded to push me out the way to get to her. Thankfully (?) their insults had been yelled loud enough for the school’s police officer to hear and he was already near the room and quickly stepped in to break up the fight. I was physically fine. I was (and still am) saddened by the whole experience, but at the same time thankful to have experienced time with these kids.  I never felt anger towards those girls. Only sadness. I offered them both my ear, but they seemed to know that since I hadn’t lived the lives they live I didn’t really understand their pain. I tried. I hope they know I cared. In the end, I know I walked away from them without throwing them a true lifeline or really offering a sustainable support system. Truth is, I was scared of failing them, so I just disappeared when my job was up. I dove into the world of my own child. It was (and is) the best I could do. I hope one day to find the courage to go back into that world, somehow. I don’t have gangster’s paradise delusions, but I dream that I can find some sort of way to work from the inside to help those kids get out. Their world is so full of guns. So empty of hope. I hate guns for what they’ve done to their world.


This isn’t very coherent. I don’t care.

Published by Andrea Dupree

I'm an artist, Yogi and Reggio-inspired Virtual Educator. ✨✌️

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