Op-Ed: This Isn’t Normal

Credit: Nicole Hester, The Tennessean

Credit: Nicole Hester, The Tennessean

It was the photo of the little girl crying on the school bus that got me. 

When my mom asked over dinner, “Did you see that there was another school shooting today?” I replied the same way I have at dinner table conversations countless times before. “Yeah, it’s so sad,” and went back to eating my meal.

But tonight, that photo of the girl jolted me out of my numbness. Her hands are forcefully pushed against the glass of the bus window. Her face is twisted in such a way that I can hear her wailing through the screen. She looks like she’s only been alive for about eight years. It’s a photo that made me understand what it feels like for your heart to wrench.

And it made me think about my conversation only a day before: how my mom had said “another” with a magnitude of desensitization in her voice that should have alarmed me. How I had been so numb that I didn’t even give the event too much thought. How, when I saw the news headline, I had thought to myself, “six isn’t too bad.”

Looking at that photo, I think about that girl’s life within the hours after the shooting. What was she thinking about while she sat all alone on that bus? When she finally saw her mom and dad, how long must she have hugged them for? Did she sleep that night, or was the sound of the bullets firing in her head too loud? What did her parents tell her? How do you explain to your child that bad people are allowed to simply carry around the last thing that her classmates saw before they died that morning?

According to ABC News, there have been 132 mass shootings so far this year. The Washington Post details that 376 school shootings have occurred in the 23 years since Columbine. “But it’s so rare,” we hear after each one. “The likelihood of that happening is so low,” our parents tell us. 

That’s probably what that girl’s parents told her, too. 

Like the rest of the country, this shooting has left me in yet another predictable wake of anger, grief, and hopelessness. Protestors have mobilized, political action groups have lobbied, survivors have shared their stories time and time and time again, and yet nothing seems to have moved in the hearts of politicians who can justify the deaths of children who have barely even begun to taste life with the right to carry arms. I’m dumbfounded as to how some Republican legislators and figureheads don’t see these photos and feel at least a small sense of guilt for their part in the horror story. 

As I keep looking at that picture, I notice some irony. “Emergency exit,” the school bus has painted over the girl’s head. And I wonder, “is there?”


The opinions stated in this article do not necessarily reflect the views and beliefs of the Wingspan staff as a whole.