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The first day of school is always filled with nervous thoughts of who is going to laugh when I stumble over my words during English and who I am going to sit with at lunch. Those are the normal fears. The fears most students have. Then come the thoughts that have raced through my head lately. Thoughts like where would I hide in this class if a school shooter comes in and will the new locks on the doors actually stop a shooter. This fear comes not from the statistics that reporters rattle off about how many school shootings occur every year. I am more scared by possibility. Students who bring guns to school but fire no shots. Possibility.

Earlier this year, on Valentine’s Day, a boy walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School near the end of the school day and pulled a fire alarm. He was armed. He had planned this attack. A 19 year old planned an armed attack on his former high school. Who’s to say that any school is immune from such an attack?

Just a few months later, during first period, a boy armed with a shotgun and a pistol entered Santa Fe High School and started shooting. I was sitting in my English class when the reports came in. Everyone kept saying that the shooting was so close to home. Just 30 miles. All I could think was that Santa Fe, New Mexico was definitely not 30 miles from Houston. Then it hit me. Santa Fe, Texas. Just a 45 minute drive from the room I was sitting in at the time. Far enough away that our days were not affected but close enough to really scare me. Much closer than past shootings.

I know that my school has more police officers than most schools and locked doors and lots of doors to escape through. I’m still scared. I remember the first fire drill after the Stoneman Douglas shooting. The teacher told us to go to the designated area across the street from the school. My classmates and I refused to move. What if this was not a drill? What if leaving would mean walking to our deaths?

I also remember the school shooting lockdown drill we had right after that Valentine’s. My Pre-Cal teacher was already emotional from talking about the lockdown training videos the teachers had to watch the day before and then the PA system clicked on,

“This is a school shooting situation… [pause] drill. Teachers please begin lockdown procedures.”

My teacher cried. A couple students faces’ lost all their color, and I swear for a moment no one’s lungs took in air and no one’s heart beat. That pause. It sent adrenaline pumping in our veins and we were frozen like deer in the headlights. Then a couple students sitting near the door snapped into action,

“You grab that side of the bookcase and I’ll move the other shelf to block the door.”

“You at the back— draw the blinds so the windows are covered and everyone get down at the front of the class.”

It was just a drill but it made us think. We spent a good chunk of the rest of class discussing various ways to barricade the doors or the heavy objects we could theoretically throw at a shooter. I don’t think anyone remembered the lesson from that day; the adrenaline erased our ability to learn for a couple hours.

My other classes felt mostly safe, except for one. The room was one of the original rooms that butted up against the science wing. Of course when they constructed the science wing they didn’t bother to tear out the windows at the back of the classroom, so if you peeked through the blinds you could look right out onto a hallway. A shooter could shoot from that hallway into the classroom. There was nowhere to hide.

These are the thoughts that scare me. These are the what-ifs that take up too much space in my daily routine. These are the thoughts I forget over the summer but remember far too vividly come the first day of school. These realities that we face are why my generation has been labeled “the School Shooting” generation. We were born with Columbine, and we fear that we will die the same way.

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