And Then It Happened Here...

It’s been a while. 

Spring has proven to be a crazy time in our family: between work, school, dance, t-ball and softball. It’s the best kind of busy (family togetherness busy) but it’s still busy.  Even our latest “vacation” was crazy.  We traveled to our home state of Wisconsin and spent the Memorial Day holiday splitting time between three cities, an average of two hours apart.

It was on the second day of this whirlwind that I was enjoying a cup of coffee and chatting with my dad, when my phone buzzed with a news alert. Another school shooting.  Actually, it said “Active shooter situation.” And that is when my heart stopped.  This wasn’t an alert from CNN.  It was my local news app.  And it wasn’t in Parkland or Santa Fe or Littleton or any of the other distant places where school shootings happen.  It was Noblesville.  My district.  My home.

To be clear, Noblesville, IN is not where we live and it is not where my children will attend school.  But it is the district I taught in within two weeks of our family moving to Indiana from Dallas, TX.  It is the district that took me in, and blessed me with a job in October when my husband got a new job and I thought I would be unemployed all semester, if not all year.  It is where I made my first friends in Indiana, and where I had an amazing group of students, all with intellectual disabilities, all of whom I loved, prayed for and celebrated with. These were my people.

The shooter was not in the school in which I taught, but I knew that some of my colleagues and former students were in the affected building.  I thought of how terrifying and confusing it would be for “my kiddos.” (If you’re a teacher, you know, they are always “your kiddos.”) I rejoiced when another alert announced the shooter was contained.  I was cautiously optimistic when the reports said only two were injured, that there no fatalities. I watched Facebook vigilantly for news that everyone I knew was accounted for and safe. 

I still can’t really believe that it happened here. Logically, I realize, it can happen anywhere, but it still seems crazy.  You see, I’ve turned off the lights and shuffled my students into a cramped bathroom, quickly making sure the classroom door was locked on the way.  I’ve struggled to keep eleven students quiet while my principals went quickly from room to room banging on door handles to make sure that we followed protocol. And all the while, as important as it was, I told myself, it wasn’t real.  There was nothing to be afraid of, because it was not real.

Until it is real, I guess.

Like many in the community, I’m still processing all of this.  I have watched with admiration as the people of Noblesville have banded together and begun the healing process.  From celebrating the heroic teacher who thwarted the attack to rallying behind the young girl who is still in the hospital, they refuse to focus on the hate and violence. There are Gofundme accounts set up for each of the victims of the shooting, as well as numerous meaningful ways to contribute to the Noblesville community. 

But even with all that positivity, it still breaks my heart that “tackle gunman” is now a duty that falls on the shoulders of our teachers. I hate that my six-year-old will start practicing “intruder drills” when she heads to Kindergarten in the fall.  And I hate that our children are hurting so intensely that gun violence feels like the only option. If I’m being honest, the whole thing makes me feel extremely hopeless.

I don’t pretend to have any answers. I don’t know what our next steps are.  I know that we pray, we vote, we prepare, and we don’t let violence or fear win. We try to address the underlying issues that have brought us here, and we do every last thing we can think of to keep our children safe.

And maybe hug them a little tighter tonight.

To donate to the victims' GoFundMe pages, please click below:

Emily Ramquist