I don’t remember when I first met J. I do remember the last
time I saw her alive though. I had worked with her for 3 years, and she was
about to graduate from 8th grade. I was 8 months pregnant and she
and her older sister, who I had also worked with, were taking bets on whether
or not I was going to have a boy or a girl. I remember vividly her beaming
smile, saying, “It’s a girl, Dr. B. I know it!” She will never know she was right. J. was always one of my
favorite students. I know we aren’t supposed to have favorites, but there are
some kids who just make a little nest in your heart. I always held a special
place for J.
She was, by no means, a quiet and compliant girl. She
personified sassiness and she spoke her mind. Like many middle school kiddos, she
sometimes didn’t know when it was a good time to speak her mind, and she got in
trouble. I have always liked working with brazen, saucy young ladies like J.
though. I feel they have leadership potential written all over them. As such, she
was “nominated” in 6th grade to be a part of my "Talent Group." She
was one of the few girls in my group who demonstrated true empathy for other
girls. I remember one day, the whole group, except J., ganged up on this one
girl and started telling her off. The girl sat there, quietly crying and J. was
the one to stop it. She said, “Guys, think of what it is like for her right now
to have everyone gang up on her. I wouldn’t like that and neither would any of
you.” I was taken aback at her maturity and expressiveness.
Over the years, J. would breeze in and out of my life at the
middle school. I always enjoyed our chats in the hall or at lunch. When she
needed more support for her challenges in school, I had the chance to work with
her one-on-one and get to know her even better. She loved to dance and jump
J. was shot and killed while walking on the street last
Sunday afternoon with a group of friends and her sister. Police believe she was
caught in gun crossfire. She was the 12th young person to be killed
by gun violence in my city in 2012. Typically, when I hear news reports of shootings, I hear the age
of the victim and wonder if it will be one of my students. This is the first
time it was.
On the heels of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, this is beyond heartbreaking. It is a sad realization that there are dozens of kids
killed by guns in the inner city where I work every year, and in inner cities
across the country. And every one of the victims is somebody’s baby. Instead of
crawling into a hole of depression and keeping my daughter safe at home for the rest of her life, I am trying to help make change.
period of 2 weeks following the shooting in Connecticut, my Facebook page was
filled with posts ranging from outrage and grief to demands for gun control.
I had hope that this shooting was the last straw for people and that we would finally take the route of countries like Australia, whose gun control measures have reduced gun-related deaths by over 50%. However, this week, people are posting pictures of their pot stickers they had for lunch
and the funny things their co-workers are doing. The outrage and grief may not be gone, but it is fading from our collective attention
span. I totally get it.
I’d rather think about happy things too. But when mothers and fathers have to live life
without their child for no good reason, I think we have a responsibility to act.
And you all know I rarely get political on this blog, but
for those who share my desire for gun control, I would like to recommend
joining the Facebook Page “One Million Moms For Gun Control.”
They post things you can do if you believe in sensible gun control policies. Like many of you, following the Sandy Hook shooting, I deeply wanted change--more mental health and less guns--, but I only talked about it with my husband and friends. After joining the group, in
two minutes, I was able to email my representatives. And each day, I have
gentle reminders on my feed that I can do something other than be disgusted
that we live in a society where children are gunned down in their homes, streets,
and schools.You don’t have to be a mom
to join the group. And it gives me a small glimmer of hope that there are tens
of millions of moms in the country that could make an impact. Maybe this group can do what MADD did for raising awareness about drunk driving.
There was only one J. And she will always be in my heart. I wish I had something more profound to say. I just feel heartbroken, once again. Something has to change.