i remember sixth grade
with a certain sweet sadness.
i remember flashes of
sun between branches- a strobe light
as we raced past evergreens
and hemlocks. we were free then.
i remember art class with Mrs. Bird, and the
bookfair, and the library, and the broken swing
on the playground, and morning meetings,
and i remember the man who came to my school with a knife.
i can’t help but remember Mrs. Gray’s shrill laugh,
cartwheeling through the hallways and rolling down
damp hills, the scent of grass wafting through the air,
the pine needles stuck in my hair, and
huddling in the corner of Mr. Tessin’s room.
i remember it was dark as he rushed to lock the door.
i remember October 2nd.
the calm voice over the intercom telling us
to stay where we were.
i remember the worry that settled in the bottom of my stomach
and the thoughts that rattled back and forth in my head.
maybe this time, it isn’t a drill.
police cars filed into the parking lots,
we could hear the sirens.
i remember the cries of the boy who watched
as his father was tackled by the police,
that's my dad!
as if it would change things.
i wished i could run to the woods and
be free again.
i feared for my life that day.
death isn't real to a sixth grader,
it shouldn't be.
nothing is real until it is imminent.
i will remember eleventh grade
with sanguine sorrow
the park bench before school,
though i was always a few minutes late.
essays and Huck Finn and math quizzes,
school evacuations and anonymous
threats to my school.
eleventh grade is learning to love myself,
drafting college applications,
valentines day, prom dresses and
wondering whether i would ever make it
home alive after the bell rang each morning.
i remember february 21st.
i remember the not knowing.
the questions hanging loosely in the air,
unasked and unanswered.
unsure of the safety of our siblings and friends
locked in the cafeteria, an easy target.
i remember the unsteady voice of
her voice was out of the ordinary
on the intercom.
after 30 minutes of lockdown
the syllables that lept off of her tongue
sent electrcity up my back and
suddenly i wondered where my jacket was.
her words were cold.
evacuation was a word none of us had heard before.
evacuation was a protocol that none of us knew.
the nearest exit never felt farther away
than it did that day.
the courtyard of BFA never felt larger,
and more empty.
we wandered aimlessly on sidewalks
we tried to move as far away from the school
as possible, not knowing what we were running away from.
frantic calls to family, children saying their last goodbyes,
if these were my last words, what would i say?
afraid for their lives.
i don't even know myself yet.
i am not sure what my future will look like
but i know that i should not have to worry
about whether i will have one.
i shouldn't have to think about the actual possibility
of my mother having to choose a casket fit for a
17 year old girl.
this could be reality in an instant because
i could be shot in cold blood during fourth period.
this is reality for so many parents in Parkland, Florida.
i shouldn't have to remind myself to always say
i love you
before leaving home in the morning
because it may be the last time i get a chance.
my mother should not have to worry about
sending her kids to get an education.
we are learning to cope with homework,
high school is for finding yourself,
not finding yourself in a situation
where you have to choose to save your own life
or someone else's.
we practice drills that they can use to kill us
we sit in corners with the door locked as if bullets can't pierce walls
we believe we are safe simply because we turn off the lights
but the only ones who are truly safe from guns are those who
are already dead.
the classic American Childhood is no longer
hot summer days and lemonade stands.
it is gun debates and school threats and lockdown drills
and knowing that the moment you step into school you are
it is fear.
i don't want to be afraid anymore.