Cute W, M, and I went to the March for Our Lives in downtown Albany on Saturday. It was a good turnout, with a similar crowd to what we’d seen at Women’s March at the same spot back in January.
Cute W took some crowd pictures, and if you want to play Where’s Waldo, you can see M and me in one of these pictures.
As I’ve mentioned in, like, every post, we’ve been pretty busy lately, and I wasn’t super-energized about going. At 9 am I was frantically preparing posters, and since I made the artistically correct but practically poor choice to use some poster point (to cross out the second “enough” in “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH” and replace it with “way too many already”), I ended up smudging damp-ish smears of paint on myself throughout the protest.
But of course, I was glad I went. It really does feel like a bit of a spiritual renewal to get out and gather with other people who are frustrated. I saw friends and cleverly-written posters and I picked up some signs and pins–gotta love the protest swag! It really does feel good to go (even if we don’t look particularly happy in the picture).
The best and most surprising part of the whole morning was seeing the student presenters. At this march, the speakers alternated between grown-up, elected-official types and the student leaders who had organized the march. Every single student’s speech was better than every single adult’s speech. By a wide margin. Like, it wasn’t even close. These kids were passionate and articulate and they knew how to get some crowd call-and-response going. I’ve been super-impressed by the kids in Washington D.C., yes, but we have some amazing local kids. Listening to them was profoundly moving.
After the march, we had to head to the car quickly to pick J up from her STEM conference, and we were happy to compare notes on our mornings, with J showing us the photos she’d taken with a simple magnifying device she’d assembled and added to her phone’s camera. We decided that we were all starving and deserved a trip to Van’s Vietnamese. Lunch was delicious, but it also took approximately forever to get all the way through to the check and take-out boxes because a sizable chunk of the marchers seemed to have the same idea as us and soon the restaurant was packed. We were lucky to get in ahead of the crowd, a testament to our efficiency, since we’d fit in a round trip to the U Albany campus.
And, since we’re on the topic of the March for Our Lives, I thought I’d relay a couple of conversations that we’ve had about school shootings.
After hearing news about how the shooter a Marjory Stoneman Douglas was the kid that everyone suspected might end up shooting up a school, I asked M, “So, is there anyone that people think of like that at our high school?” She thought for a minute, then shook her head. “No, there isn’t one stand-out person. But, like, if you think about the profile of a semi-isolated white guy? I mean, our school is full of semi-isolated white guys.”
On another occasion, I was driving M and a friend to a practice, and they began an animated discussion about school shootings in general and what they would do in the event of a school shooting. It was interesting because it sounded, at first at least, like the general upbeat chit chat about how the test was or who’s been selling Juuls or who likes whom. But what was clear from this conversation? They’d thought about it. A lot. They had each decided on what they thought was their best possible hiding place in the school. For each, it was closets. Naturally, because a shooter’s going to just shoot through any locked classroom doors, but closets were less obvious, more likely to be overlooked, and they wouldn’t necessarily contain students, so maybe the shooter would save the ammo. The girls are taking different classes, so the places they’d scoped out were different. One of them described a closet near some science classrooms, ending with, “. . . and the best is, it locks–” “From the inside?!?” the other one interrupted, excited. They both agreed that that made it an awesome choice. The other favorite spot was a closet near some art rooms. For this one, its best feature is that the closet is really deep, so if you got there first and people packed in after you, the others might shield you. I mean, sucks for them, but still, other people had made it out of situations that way.
Okay, can we pause a minute before we continue? These two excellent students have been spending a not-inconsiderable portion of their brain power on analyzing the potential strategies for responding to an active shooter. Seriously? No wonder these kids are stressed out.
But, moving on. They continued to analyze the best and worst places to be in the event of a shooting, and eventually got to what my daughter, at least, calls “Old Caf.” Yeah, they agreed. If you were in Old Caf, there weren’t good spaces or even good internal walls. If you happened to be in Old Caf when a shooter arrived, you were pretty much going to die. There was a pause. A change of subject.
Later, I took a picture of this “Old Caf” section of the school.
Incidentally, they’ve been locking the doors that you can see here, as if that will help.#goodeffort
I feel pretty nostalgic about this old cafeteria. Some of the first time I spent in the high school was in the old caf, when I volunteered for a huge garage sale that our daughters’ nursery school ran every year. It was in old caf that I saw a magnificent homemade dollhouse that later appeared at our house from Santa. In old caf, I found the punch bowl that became a party tradition for the girls. Last fall, Cute W arrived home from picking up M at a dance organized for Nisky Friends, a group that tries to get mainstream students and special needs students to socialize together. He described pulling up to the curb and gazing over at the building, where he was surprised that he could see M so clearly. She was animated, laughing, and dancing like crazy in dress-up clothes, surrounded by a big group of happy kids in a room decorated with twinkling lights, and he had one of those moments of heart-bursting pride, observing our fun, beautiful, and kind daughter from a distance.
For me, that grubby old cafeteria has always been a teensy bit magical, so I hate that it’s been declared a death trap to be avoided, just like I hate how kids spend their school days assessing their best survival strategies.
All of those American children who have been fortunate enough, so far, to have avoided experiencing gun violence first or second hand? That doesn’t mean that they haven’t suffered from this state of affairs. We’ve already failed them.
So, yes, the moms are pissed, and hopefully that will help. But at this point, my bet’s on the kids.