US Time | Confessions of a Community College Dean

Last week’s mass shooting at a Tops supermarket in Buffalo was gruesome. So is this week’s mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

The fact that I have to edit “mass fire” with an indication of what week I’m talking about says too much.

Growing up in Western New York, my first paid job in high school was at a Tops supermarket. I recognized the sign immediately. The incident only took place about half an hour from Lockport, where Oklahoma City suicide bomber Timothy McVeigh attended high school. The region has a history. Western New York was once a hotbed of abolitionism and feminism; the Seneca Falls conference was held there and the National Women’s Rights Park is located there. (We took the kids several years ago. Worth a visit if you’re in the area. I was struck by the fact that even though the park is entirely urban, the rangers still dress in forest green. ) Western New York borders Canada, so it became part of the Underground Railroad. My mom owned a historic house there for a few years that had a plaque out front saying it was once an Underground Railroad stop. You could see the place in the basement where people were hiding. She left this place alone.

That a place associated with abolitionism becomes the scene of a racist massacre is beyond words.

School shootings also have a history. The wife and I got married four days after the Columbine shooting. I remember being overwhelmed when The Boy, at the age of five, came home from school and told us about the lockdown drill her kindergarten class did that day. I remember exactly where I was when I heard about Sandy Hook. The image that stuck with me was of the children holding hands as the teacher led them through the parking lot. They weren’t much younger than my daughter at the time. After the Parkland shooting, The Girl – who was in eighth grade at the time – led a strike of her college’s classes in protest. (The acting school principal called me at work to try to convince me to talk her out of it. I listened politely, then told TG that we would support whatever she wanted to do.) kids were thrilled with the March for Our Lives in DC, so we took them. The march was peaceful, dignified and moving. We were glad we went, even if we were upset that we had to.

The Uvalde massacre comes as The Girl counts the weeks until graduation.

Colleges have not been spared. I well remember the Virginia Tech and Umpqua Community College shootings. (The latter was the focus of the only conference panel I’ve ever attended that felt like my punching was too hard.) Besides, churches, movie theaters, and malls didn’t been sheltered.

I’m old enough to remember that it wasn’t always like this. At my public high school in the 1980s, the worst we had were the fire drills. “School violence” referred to students hitting each other. The area wasn’t particularly affluent or polished – some of the terms used by gym trainers at the time now occasioned a visit to HR – but I don’t recall the phrase ‘school shootings’ being used at all. .

It doesn’t have to be that way. I shouldn’t be able to mark the passage of time through memories of massacres. It doesn’t have to be that way.

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