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It’s all been said before

I don’t know what to say.

That’s been the constant refrain in my thoughts for the past two weeks since the Valentine’s Day school shooting in Parkland, FL took the lives of 17 people and injured many more.

I don’t know what to say because it’s all been said before. We offered our condolences, our prayers, our anger, our solutions. The script has already been written because we’ve gone through all this before: in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado; in Sandy Hook Elementary School; at a nightclub in Orlando; in a church in Charleston, SC; at a concert in Las Vegas. The list goes on and on and on.

I’ve spent the last few days watching quietly as the gun control debate erupts again, as it always does. The same things said as they have been before: “Don’t take our guns away.” “Ban assault weapons completely.” “It’s a mental health issue.” “Arm the teachers.” “Nobody needs an assault rifle anyway.”

Though there’s a new one added this time: “should we even listen to teenagers?”

Many students from Stoneman Douglas High School have stepped forward to advocate for changes in gun laws. They lived through tragedy, suffered indescribable loss, and still spoke up to spark change in the hopes that no one else will have to go through the same devastation. I admire their determination.

What I don’t admire is the people dismissing the students for speaking out. It’s fine if you want to respectfully disagree with their stance on the issue. It’s not fine to spread ridiculous conspiracy theories that the teenagers are actors or that they are just parroting the ideas of the adult agenda supporting them. And it’s certainly not fine to merely discount their opinion because they’re just “dumb teenagers.” (Please, put your Tide Pod jokes away. They’re dumber than the teenagers you’re trying to disparage.)

I don’t know what to say because I’m trying to listen to both sides of the debate, even though one side makes more sense to me than the other.

What has been at the forefront of my mind since the news of the shooting broke is an article I read a few months ago. It was a feature piece entitled “Twelve Seconds of Gunfire” from The Washington Post profiling four first graders who survived a school shooting in South Carolina in 2016.

The story details the shooting—what led up to it and what happened in the aftermath—but more importantly, it tells the story of classmates who lived through the tragedy and lost one of their friends on that day. It tells of how they’ve learned to cope or how they’ve failed to cope in the wake of the tragedy. They’re much younger than the students in Parkland who are taking a stand against gun violence, but their experiences and emotions in the aftermath are probably very similar. They’re just doing the best they can to keep moving forward with their lives. They’re so young though that they shouldn’t have to.

I don’t know what to say to describe what I feel when I read the headlines and stories every time this happens. By now, I’m getting numb to it all.

I don’t know what to say because it’s all been said before. And I still won’t know what to say the next time this happens. Perhaps none of us know what to truly say after these tragedies. Maybe that’s why we’re just following the familiar script of this conversation over and over and over again until it fades away for a few months.

I really wish I could figure out what to say.

 

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at holly.taylor@r-cnews.com or by phone at 252-332-7206.