Thoughts & Prayers
The moment we lose our innocence is hard to pinpoint. It happens gradually and over time. We only realize that it is gone once it is too late, once the world has ripped away our innocence one event at a time.
I tightly grip my pencil as I quickly push out the final details of my history notes. The girl next to me repeatedly taps her pen on the desk. After what feels like an eternity the teacher admits defeat by dismissing class. After the internal, silent celebration I pack up my books, sling my backpack onto my shoulder, and follow my classmates to lunch. Leaving the classroom is like taking a breath of fresh air. I walk through the hallways hearing heated debates about the latest NBA game and excited chatter about the after-school soccer game. I spot my best friend standing by the neon pink peer tutoring posters. I quickly walked over to say hi before sprinting to my next class. Before I could even complain about my upcoming math test, the loudspeaker blares throughout the school announcing our lockdown drill.
A switch flips in the school as the 300 students who were once energetically buzzing with conversation fall silent as they make their way to their lockdown rooms. We march like soldiers prepared for battle. Our bodies fall into a single file line and our mouths don’t dare to crack a smile. I quickly and efficiently place myself behind the desk in the library, my assigned position. I sit there dead silent. No speaking, no sudden movements, no standing up. We all know the rules.
The clock counts down the exact fifteen minutes in which the lockdown drill takes place. The second alarm sounds, signaling five minutes left of this routine drill. I then close my eyes and wait for the last alarm to sound signaling the end of the weekly lockdown drill. My head falls into knees as the silence of the library becomes deafening. My mind begins to wander and for the first time I actually think about the 15 minutes I spend in this library every week. Every other week for as long as I could remember a new headline would surface with another horrible mass shooting somewhere in the United States. Leaders would appear on every media outlet sending their thoughts and prayers. Wishing the families of the victims their best. Then life would just continue, nothing would change. More people were killed, more lives were destroyed, no laws were changed. That is the routine our country fell into. These lockdown drills are part of that routine. Instead of changing the pattern of destructive violence that is eating our country alive, the government sends their thoughts and prayers. Thoughts and prayers don’t magically fix situations. They don’t implement gun control or protect citizens from the multiple violent attacks that seem to happen biweekly. I have to take time out of my day to practice protecting myself from the inevitable event of a shooting. Instead of creating laws that will stop these horrible events from happening, we train to protect ourselves from the inevitable.
My eyes sting as I lift my face out of my knees. This is the moment. This is the moment where I realized my innocence was gone. My innocence was not the belief that bad things never happened. I always knew the world was not perfect. I knew bad things happened. My innocence was the belief that things could get better. That the leaders we put all of our trust in could help solve problems for their citizens, not continue to fight with one another. The final alarm sounds and the school snaps out of its trance. I see smiles return to my classmates faces and conversation begins to fill the halls once again. This is our routine. This is our story. Every week we will have a fifteen minute lockdown drill that prepares elementary school students for something that was once unthinkable. We have to change our story. Thoughts and prayers are not enough. No matter how bad things get we can never relinquish hope that it will get better, because the world has to get better.
Ali Fishman is a sophomore living in San Francisco, CA. She attends San Francisco University High School. She plays volleyball, basketball, and softball. In addition to sports she enjoys photography, surfing, and binge watching Netflix. Her favorite show is How I Met Your Mother. She lives with her sister, mother, father, and brother.