Here are open letters to every type of person affected during these tragedies— yes, even you.

I realized yesterday morning that when my mom wakes up and goes to work, she always leaves before I get to say bye to her. She’s a middle school teacher for special education children–so she always gets there early. My brother is 18, finishing up his senior year. He’s busy every day, and I realized that before he goes to school, I usually don’t get to say bye to him, either. And it didn’t hit me until yesterday that 17 families, living the same busy lives that we live, in a completely different state as me, may also have not said goodbye– only to never be able to say hello again. And yes, the pot will be stirred and the flag will be drawn at half point, people will change their statuses on social media and donate to the Go Fund me pages of families who didn’t plan on burying their 15 year olds. Their father, their sister, their brother– their classmates, their friends, and their teachers…

And all I can think about is how I didn’t say bye to my mom this morning. I didn’t say goodbye to my brother. That my mom is the kind of teacher that would lay on the bodies of her students to protect them. That, I don’t know if my brother would know where to run or what to do if there was an active shooter in his school.

Meanwhile, you are having arguments about how schools should be dressed as prisons with guards, metal detectors, armed military and guns in every classrooms, for teachers to protect themselves and their children. Meanwhile, you are arguing that if we take away guns, we must take away cars too, because accidents happen every day. Meanwhile you wear your patriotism like a glove and say “NOT ME– you will never take away MY rights. Even if it means another man taking away my child’s life in their classroom, I. Will. Own. A. Gun.” And as we have these arguments, another person is planning the next mass shooting. Planning the destruction of another 10, 15, 20, 50 families in America.

Dear teachers and educators,

Thank you. Thank you for protecting your children. For standing with them and for being on their side. For being brave when they cannot. Thank you for using your minds to fuel their futures, for believing in every child, despite how difficult they may be. Thank you for using your bodies to shield them. For using your hands to guide them into cabinets and closets while you guard the doors and pray that you don’t need to be the only thing between them and a chunk of lead flying through the air, being triggered by the hands of one man. Thank you for embodying the bravery of a real soldier, taking on a job that you never applied for. Thank you for being not only an educator, but a protector.

Dear students,

I am so sorry. Your lives are changed forever, your minds and your hearts are permanently damaged from an event that should not happen to any child. You should not be afraid to go to school, you should not be afraid to go to the movies, you should not be afraid to be a child. No amount of thoughts and prayers will ever be able to give you back your teachers, your classmates, or rid you of trauma. Your Valentine’s days will forever be different, your outlook on life as you know it will never be the same. I am so sorry on behalf of all the adults speaking out on this event, who have no idea what it is like to be you, to see what you saw, or feel the fear you felt. I am so sorry on behalf of the political leaders who are not on your side. And most importantly, I am so sorry on behalf of every individual blaming you for this horrific event. As you clean the blood off of your shoes, and sleep at night and hear the voices of your classmate’s screaming and crying, the constant rounds of bullets being fired down hallways of your school– know that this is not normal. This does not have to be your new normal. And there are people fighting for you. And the only prayer that I have is that in your time of healing, that we will win this fight.

Dear parents,

You should not have to fear for your child’s life. You should not have to have these conversations. It is not a normal thing for a parent to have to bury their child. I am so sorry that you not only have to live in fear for your own life, but for your children’s lives as well. For those of you who have lost children, there are no words. Nothing that will bring them back, nothing that will change their fate or heal your pain. All we can do is ignite change and hope that your pain is not wasted. To parents who have not lost their children to gun violence, be good to those who have. Tread lightly with your words and hug your child tighter. Be thankful that you have the privilege to do so. And if you can, fight to keep them safe, fight for their lives and for their safety.

Dear Law Abiding Gun Owner,

I hope you understand that no one is trying to destroy your rights. No one is trying to tyrannically punish you. But our children are dying, our teachers are dying to protect them. The glock hanging on your belt or the hand gun tucked away in your glove box aren’t the problem. Try to understand that asking for common sense gun laws should not affect you, especially if your intentions are pure. Screening tests, background checks, it should be difficult. Because buying a weapon designed to kill should not be an easy thing to do.

Dear Second Amendment,

You were ratified on December 15, 1791. Over two centuries before mass shootings occured weekly in schools, movie theaters, concert halls, churches, and nightclubs. Before it was normal. Before we became the only nation in the world where mass shootings and gun violence occur every single day. Two centuries later, here we are. People are clinging to your promise, but they are forgetting that the men who inked your parchment didn’t live in a time where children were murdered at school.

Dear Congress, 

We don’t have to be this way. We don’t have to die this way. Children should not come home from school stained with the blood of their classmates. Teachers should not need to have guns in their classrooms to protect their students. If mental health is the reasoning behind these killings, we need to have more conversations about mental health. We need mental healthcare access to every family. We need mental healthcare access in schools, on college campuses, and in hospitals and clinics. We need to not fear that a mentally ill individual will be able to legally purchase an assault rifle capable of shooting out classrooms.  We need leadership that will constantly be on the side of the victims–not on the side of the weapons that killed them.

Dear NRA,

This generation is dying. This generation is now scarred for life. This generation has watched their classmates, teachers, friends and family die in front of them. This generation will one day destroy you. 

Before you go to bed tonight, think–Did you say it? “I love you.” “I miss you.” “I don’t want to live without you.” “You changed my life.”

Go about your days. Follow through with your plans. But every now and then, stop and look around. Take it all in. Because at any given moment it can be gone. And to those of you who want so badly to comment that I am un-American, that I am encouraging liberal propaganda, that I don’t know what I am talking about— I hope you never have to bury a loved one, or your child, because gun violence took their life. 

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