Amanda Cassidy reports on the shocking desensitisation of a country that accepts shooting drills and the mass murder of children as normal.
Joe and Irma Garcia were a couple very much in love. Everyone said it. They were together 30 years. They were high school sweethearts and had four children, the youngest of whom is just 13 years old.
Irma Garcia taught fourth-grade students at Robb elementary, in a mostly Hispanic community about 85 miles west of San Antonio, where she had worked for 23 years.
On her staff biography she wrote that she and Joe enjoyed barbecuing, listening to music, and vacationing at the nearby community of Concan, which sits along Texas’ Frio River.
On Thursday morning Irma spoke to her son who was training to be a marine on the phone. She kissed her husband and three hours later was shot to death while attempting to shield five 10-year-olds from a deranged teenage gunman.
19 of them died, alongside another teacher.
A shell-shocked Joe Garcia laid flowers at the site of his wife’s massacre after identifying her body. He went home and the within just hours dropped dead himself from a catastrophic cardiac event. His orphaned children say he died of a broken heart.
Hearts could be felt breaking across the world as news of the tragic events at the Texas primary school filtered through. As the initial horror of the reports of scores of small children being killed hit, another horror was also emerging. A delay in police storming the building. We’ll never know what could or couldn’t be prevented but the additional ‘what if’s’ will add to the families suffering.
Writer Olive Solomon wrote about her disappointment in the country where she’s grown up.
“America is not pro-life and we know it,” she wrote in an op-ed this week. “Because when all you care about is a child being brought into the world without giving them any resources to survive in a society riddled with social and economic disparity, you are simply pro-forced-birth.”
Born two months after 9/11, she says her entire life has been defined by chaos and disaster.
“My childhood and education were bound by school shootings. At age 11 I got my first phone after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. My parents needed to get in contact with me if this were to ever happen at my school.”
As the hand-wringing over the gun laws in the USA begins (again) and people point out that their uterus is more regulated than guns, there is a new strand that’s taken many by surprise: The trauma of living in the shadow of such an attack.
The drills that millions of children have had to endure from kindergarten. And the desensitisation of a country that accepts this as normal.
A thread on social media has gone viral with people charting their experiences of growing up with the anxiety that you could be shot while learning maths. Or mowed down by a machine gun while playing tag in yard.
“We went through drills every day” Lex says on Twitter. “After Sandy Hook, my teacher broke down in tears and swore she’d take a bullet for us if it came down to it. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it”.
“That fear was normal to me already.” She continues. “It was the same fear I’d had since elementary. They didn’t even tell us if it was a drill. My heart would beat so fast when they jangled the door knob (they sent people to test every door)”
This is what American children are raised on. Fear and suspicion. And heartbreakingly, it is too often a fear that’s realised.
“I’m a high school teacher” says Linda Marie on Twitter. “And we had one lockdown drills when they come rattle the doors. My student, a little girl, looks at me and whispers “is this when I text my mom to say I love her”. Enough is enough.”
Welcome to America where you can’t have a beer until you are 21 but you can buy an AR-15 for your 18th birthday. Where your kids can be target practice for a troubled teen with an automatic weapon.
“My daughter refused to go to school because she didn’t want to “get shot and die” I couldn’t promise her it wouldn’t happen.” admits Joelle on her social media.
Beyond the thoughts and prayers and outrage, the Texas school shooting has revealed the how American society has short-circuited.
Politicans and leaders have nothing insightful or useful to say about the latest calamity. A return to godliness or more police presence seems like an insulting solution, especially to the parents who’ve had to identify their shot up 9-year-olds.
This is a society at war with itself. The fear of violence pushing people to buy guns that scare others who fear violence. The vicious circle continues. This fear, started perhaps, in childhood as she sit on the floor of your classroom shaking during drills, spells disaster alongside the availability of weapons of mass murder.