I Moved To America At 16. I Wasn’t Expecting Shooting Drills To Be A Part Of The Curriculum
School shootings aren’t and should never be normal
( Heather Mount / Unsplash )
There are two critical pieces of information that altered my perception of safety within the United States of America.
1. The FDA permits 450 insect parts and nine rodent hairs in every 16 oz. box of spaghetti.
2.Children as young as one-year-old are routinely coached through school shooting drills, fearing for their life, as if it is an inevitability.
To this day, I struggle to find the right words to express the shock I feel over school’s gun procedures. I cannot reconcile with the realization that school in America means learning to long-divide and where to hide if someone attacks the student body in the same class period. I wondered if I had enough room in my brain to store things like algebra formulae and color-coding systems for if kids were missing, accounted for, or gravely injured.
I moved to Florida from Jamaica in 2016 for my junior year of high school. I won’t say I imagined that it’d be a High School Musical perfect experience; but nothing could have prepared me for the reality that it was more like Glee, season 4 episode 18.
I experienced my first active shooter drill two or three months into my first year of schooling in the United States. I will never forget when a classmate discussed what their final text message to their loved ones would say. I listened, horrified, as they called out sweet details like which of their pet names would be best suited for a final goodbye.
Something like, “I will love you forever – booger” might be better than signing off with my name,” someone said. “Then they’ll laugh when they read it, and I want them to smile when they remember me.”
In the harsh reality we faced, their tender thoughts grounded me. So young, and they already planned their last words. It melted my heart, just as the school system froze it in panic.
I remember going home and explaining to my mother, incredulous as to why the kids in my French class were miffed that the drill delayed our exam instead of canceling it. Migrating at age 16 gave me a fresh perspective as to how abnormal the circumstance was. I couldn’t understand why they weren’t terrified.
I remember the way the door rattled when teachers or administrators played the part of a school shooter. All I could think about was what that would have meant if it was not a drill.
The armed shooting drill system was popularized following the 1999 shooting at Columbine Highschool in Littleton, Colorado, and the school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The shootings were a part of an ongoing line. Understandably, following Columbine, lockdown and active shooter drills rose in frequency from 40 percent in 2007 to 95 percent in 2017.
Now, the American education system necessitates bullet-proof backpacks for children, rather than implementing strict gun control regulation. The timeline of shootings versus gun control bill proposals and their subsequent rejections sends a clear message: "Prevention is less profitable than the cure.”
Now, my mind is on the third-year anniversary of a local tragedy, and my heart sinks in solitude with those who have lost loved ones. With just a drill, I felt utter fear. I can only imagine how students in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas classrooms felt. I hope at some point, we never have to imagine what it is like again. I hope drills become so null and void that in our future, the idea of preparing a student for life no longer requires them to know how to fight for it.
Alazne Cameron was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica and is an Online Activism writer at Rowdy Magazine. She loves food-based metaphors, alliteration and social justice. Her favorite food is food for thought (but anything with a cheesy, creamy Alfredo base is a close second). You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram @alaznecameron for more information.