Why is Marjory Stoneman Douglas Different?

What if Nick Cruz never transferred to Douglas?

What if the shooting took place at Cross Creek School for emotionally and behaviorally disabled students, the school he attended previously.

A school that rates a 1 out of 10 on greatschools.org.

The school with a 36% graduation rate.

What if the victims and survivors were not receiving a world-class education?

What if they were from the inner city?

The slums?

The barrio?

The ghetto?

Would we still be talking about gun-law reform?

History tells us no. We would not be talking about it over two and a half weeks later. We’ve had major school shootings before. We’ve had six and seven year olds murdered in their class. When nothing significant changed after the first school mass shooting in modern US history, we should have realized that meant it likely never would.

But now?

Nothing has dominated the social media news cycle this long since the 2016 presidential election.

What’s different?

For one thing, this happened to a group of high school students who have more privilege than the average US high school student.

They attend a school I wish I attended! Hell, I wish I could attend a school like that now.

These students, they are smart. They are smarter than most of their peers. They are smarter than me. I may know more in terms of life experience, but I bet the disparity is limited to married life and child rearing, to be honest.

When I grew up, I was pretty sheltered from the outside world in terms of bad news. The first major news stories I remember were Baby Jessica and the Challenger explosion. And Baby Jessica had a happy ending!

High Schoolers today grew up post 9/11. They grew up in a completely different country than I grew up with. They will never know what it’s like to walk someone to the gate at the airport. They have never known life where we weren’t at war. They were between six and eight years old when the economy crashed. At the same time, social media started to boom and the world news began flooding our newsfeeds.

When I began really getting into Facebook and social media at 26 years old, it changed me. I changed for the better, and in some ways maybe for worse (I am more socially awkward in person likely due to my time spent interacting online). My beliefs have been challenged and evolved through interactions on social media. I’ve grown. I can only imagine how growing up with the world’s information at their fingertips and social media as a native language could influence a generation. These students are without a doubt among the smartest generation to date. Are they the wisest? The most disciplined? The most respectful? The most compassionate?

I have no idea.

But they are the most informed. The most knowledgeable. They are the smartest.

And the most social media savvy.

So they aren’t going to let this story get buried alongside their 17 murdered peers.

These students are utilizing their social media, which is now their megaphone to the world, to keep the focus on gun reform.

Because they are political? Perhaps, but maybe not.

Because they are against Donald Trump? Well, research shows more educated people vote democrat so maybe?

Because they have some sort of liberal agenda? If not wanting to run and hide for their lives as bullets spray through the hallways and not wanting to have to bury their friends is a liberal agenda, then yes.

Because they are emotional? Well, I’d hope any real live human being would be emotional after seeing other humans blown to bits outside geometry class.

We are still talking about because they are smart. They are privileged. They have resources. They have parents who move to a crazy expensive neighborhood to send their kids to that school. They have parents who can afford to move to a crazy expensive neighborhood just to send their kids to that school. These students have people in their lives who invested in them. Who gave them the best. Not just “the best they could” which is what I do for my kids. No no, they gave them the best that money could buy.

This is not to minimize their accomplishments. If I had the means, I would do the same thing for my kids. I drive 30 minutes each way to get my kids to a charter school when the local public school is three blocks away. I want to invest in public schools, but when they took away recess in their local public school, I had to look elsewhere. Because as much as I want things to improve for everyone, I want my kids to have the best I can give them. Right now, it’s another public school, but one with recess. I know enough to know that recess is crucial for children’s well-being and education. Sadly, our legislators don’t know that. I can’t sacrifice my children when I don’t have to in order to hopefully help make a difference for future generations. I just can’t.

And the Marjory Stoneman Douglas parents did the same thing, only, they had better options because they had more money.

That’s okay.

In fact, their privilege, education and support is precisely what makes the students so effective.

I am profoundly heartbroken for all who lost a loved one to gunfire on February 14th at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. As a mother, my heart is especially broken for those moms who will never see their babies’ faces again. Who will never have the luxury of getting out of the teenage years and into the time when your child starts a family of their own and gives you that call. The call that says, “Thank you, mom. For everything you did for me.” The sincerity in their voice making all the hard days of parenting worth it. I’m so so sorry you will never experience that.

My only hope at this point is that their deaths were not in vain. That maybe in time, the universe may grant the victim’s families some comfort in knowing that their senseless deaths served a purpose.

That their deaths sparked real change. That because of the caliber of the students at this particular school, in this particular time, became the tidal wave that started with the ripple that was Sandy Hook.

After Columbine and before Sandy Hook, we seemingly accepted possible but unlikely school shootings may happen. Even the shooting at Virginia Tech didn’t rock Universities. I know because I was both an employee and a student in 2007. And again, that’s when Marjory Stoneman Douglas students were between the ages of six and nine. It took almost an entire generation to enact change. I’m going to my 20 year reunion this year. That’s roughly a generation. Students graduating in 2018 have more knowledge and have experienced more turmoil than I had at that age. And the knowledge + turmoil can make you or break you. Some, it has broken them to the point that they become the mass shooter. And others, it has made them to the point where they can finally stand up to the Washington and the Gun Lobby.

I am so sorry to the victims’ loved ones.

I dread dropping my kids’ off at school. I look around for the exits at public gatherings. I have walked out of movie theaters because of a suspicious looking white male (and I have endured harsh realizations about my own susceptibility to fear based prejudice).

I am scared of indiscriminate gunfire breaking out at my child’s school.

I don’t want that fear. I don’t want other mothers to experience that fear. I don’t want anyone else to endure the loss of a child due to a shooting in a place where you should feel safe to leave them. This is going against all my motherly instincts. I never leave them anywhere if I don’t feel like they are safe. Except now, I do it every day.

We have to change that. I would never wish this on anyone. This fear, nor the reality that is knowing your child was blown away, literally, for no reason. They were being. The students weren’t out at all hours of the night getting into trouble. They were doing what teens are mandated to do. And they are going to be known to history as the ones who started the process of making our schools safer.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas victims and survivors may very well be responsible for saving children’s lives, including mine and yours.

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MJ Corkern

“People like to laugh at you cause they are all the same; I would rather we just go our different way than play the game.” -Pink