I cannot imagine supporting the Parkland students more than I do. I am passionate about gun control and about keeping our kids safe. And yet, as much as I would like to, I won't be attending the March For Our Lives this Saturday.
It's not a matter of proximity. The closest one for me, in Cleveland, Ohio, isn't too far. It's that I have three young children, and I would have to take them with me. I won't lie: I'm afraid for their safety every day, and on days like Saturday. And with 46 children dying every day in America from gun violence, it's not an irrational fear.
When those shots were fired Feb. 14 in Parkland, Florida, something changed. The kids who witnessed the horrific events were not only terrified — they were furious. This shouldn’t have happened. And they knew it.
If our classrooms aren't safe, then our wide-open streets in some of our biggest cities can't be, either.
As a parent, something changed for me, too. I could hardly stand the anxiety that came with putting my children on the bus on Feb. 15 and the days afterwards, not knowing if they would be safe in school. We can send them off and hope for the best, but we know school shootings don’t discriminate.
On Feb. 14 and during the days that followed, I watched the news nonstop. I wrote to my representatives. I listened to my local officials talk about what they were doing to keep students safe. I kept waiting to hear what would change. The answer came: Nothing. Nothing would be different.
The Parkland students had the same questions. They also now had a platform. We owe the march to their efforts. And I am with them. I am so, so with them. School needs to be one of the safest places for our kids, not one of the most frightening.
But I am afraid. If someone can take a gun into a school and shoot dozens of people in a matter of minutes, someone could also wreak havoc on a peaceful protest. In America, right now, our classrooms are not safe spaces. And if our classrooms aren't safe, then our wide-open streets in some of our biggest cities can't be, either.
To attend any public event takes an incredible amount of bravery. Whether my fears have merit or are entirely in my head, I can't bear to put my family in a position where I can't guarantee their safety — at least, no more than I absolutely have to.
I consider it my job to protect my kids, and that includes making them feel safe, even when I feel anxious. Right now, my children are young enough that they don’t fear violence at school. I want to keep it that way. Taking them to a public space where I could not hide my rising levels of anxiety, of fear and claustrophobia, would signal to them that there is something to fear. I don't want them to feel that way unless they need to.
I stand with Parkland. I stand with the students who go to school everyday. I stand with my own children. I will do everything I can to protect them — to push for the laws that will keep them safe, and to stand with the groups who are fighting the good fight.
I am going to do everything I can to continue to educate myself on this topic. The official March For Our Lives has a list of resources, as do gun control organizations like Everytown For Gun Safety and the Brady Campaign. You can find your representatives' contact information here.
And, most crucially, in November, the voters will have the opportunity to be heard on this issue.
As much as I admire everybody marching Saturday, I know that there is more than one way to be heard and to give support. We have to take those opportunities, act on them, and keep fighting for our children.