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‘I am at a loss’

Thoughts and prayers are not enough

Editor’s note: This essay by Ellie McDowell was originally published Dec. 8 in The Central Trend and is republished here with permission.

Eleventh-grader Ellie McDowell is a junior writer for The Central Trend. She loves to read and write, and in her free time you can often find her with an instrument in her hand. She is in the marching band and plays the clarinet, but she plays tenor saxophone in the Jazz Band. She plays numerous other instruments outside of school, including the ukulele and the flute. During the summer, Ellie loves to go to Grand Haven with her friends.

Forest Hills — I am scared and angry. I am tired both physically and emotionally. I don’t know what to do anymore.

Columbine High School, April 20, 1999: 15 people were taken from the world, and 21 were injured. Columbine is 1,186 miles away from FHC.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Feb. 14, 2018: 17 people were taken from the world, and 17 more were injured. MSD is 1,427 miles away from FHC.

Oxford High School, Nov. 30, 2021. 4 people were taken from the world, and 7 more were injured. Oxford is a mere 142 miles from FHC.

Since the shooting in Parkland, Florida that killed 17, I have spent numerous hours looking up statistics, facts and information about shootings in schools. I have spent hours looking for a reason that someone hasn’t done something. I have spent hours trying to figure out what lawmakers are doing to stop this.

All that I found is people offering thoughts and prayers. My question is what is that going to do? What is that going to do to protect us? Thoughts and prayers don’t stop people from buying guns and bringing them to places and killing people.

All they do is leave students all over the country to live in fear.

A few days after the Oxford shooting, we locked ourselves into a classroom, trying to convince ourselves that we were safe. I was too scared to go walk down the hallways while classes were happening because I didn’t like the thought of being alone in the hallway if an active shooter did emerge from a bathroom with a gun.

Just the thought of going to school scares me. Schools all over the state have had copycat threats in the days following the events in Oxford, and I am terrified of what might happen in the coming weeks.

I’m not just scared; I’m angry. I am so incredibly angry because as I scroll through social media, I see endless posts about our lawmakers sending their thoughts and prayers. I am so incredibly angry because this isn’t the first time this has happened. It has been 22 years since Columbine, and we are still dealing with this.

When will someone in power notice that we are treading water, unable to keep our heads above the surface anymore?

Tate Myre, 16 years old. Madisyn Baldwin, 17 years old. Justin Shilling, 17 years old. Hana St. Juliana, 14 years old.

These four kids, all of them right around my age, are the most recent victims of a gun in the wrong hands. I use their names now to honor them and other lives lost to gun violence. I use their names now because these kids died heroes.

They died heroes, but why did they have to die? If lawmakers would just open their eyes, they would see the fear and danger raging across the entire country. I am 16 years old. Why am I going to school wondering if I said goodbye to my parents, and wondering if that might have been my last goodbye?

What about everything I have left to do? I want to change someone’s life, but if lawmakers don’t hurry up and open their eyes, I might not get that chance. Tate, Madisyn, Justin and Hana didn’t. So many others have gotten that chance ripped away from them.

When will someone in power realize that this isn’t a battle that we can fight alone? When will someone in power start helping those of us who are at a loss of what to do next?

How do I go to school every morning without wondering if this will be my last time walking through these doors? I shouldn’t be thinking about that until the last day of my senior year, but here I am, a junior in high school, scared that I won’t make it through my day.

I am scared and angry. I am tired both physically and mentally. I don’t know what to do anymore.

Related Story: Local students respond to Oxford shootings: ‘This should not be normal’

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