One Mother’s Gut Wrenching Call to End School Shootings

School gun violence has struck this American family twice.

Posted Feb 20, 2018

Up to half of the world’s guns are in the United States.[1] Psychological studies have shown that the mere presence of weapons can stimulate violence.[2] [3] These psychological studies support the beliefs of a Parkland mom with a real life story that is activating her—along with many others—to demand common sense gun laws to protect children.

On June 6, 2016, Rosemarie, a mother of two children and wife of a sports psychologist, sat glued to their TV in Parkland, Florida, as SWAT teams descended three thousand miles away on the UCLA campus where her daughter, Danielle, was locked in a room with her professor and fellow students. There was an active shooter on campus. An alert was sent at 9:49 a.m. The lock-down lifted hours later with two people dead, a professor and a student.

It happened again on Valentine’s Day 2018.

Rosemarie and Rick, are also parents of Connor, a senior at Parkland. They live in an affluent tight-knit community, arguably one of the safest and most beautiful suburban areas in Florida, it's the proud home of some of America’s best public schools. Again, they were caught in the claws of the horrible monster of school gun violence, but this time a mile away from home.

Rosemarie’s account of the Parkland school shooting is a voice that needs to be heard by every parent, teacher, psychologist, law enforcement officer, citizen, politician, voter in America, and beyond. It help makes school shootings real. It’s a voice reaching out to anyone who wants to protect children in our schools. What is education in a democratic society about if we can’t keep children safe in schools?

Rosemarie is a personal friend, former teacher, and colleague who assisted me in writing about early literacy. She sent me this message by smartphone:

Danielle is now a junior at UCLA, where two years ago SWAT teams descended on her campus because of an active shooter. She was locked in a room with a professor and other students for several hours.

On Wednesday, I received a text from Connor, now a senior at Parkland:

“omg Code red Mom. I hear gun shots. I’m in a closet with Mrs. Herzfeld” (and 66 other students).

At that moment, sirens exploded down the street and I received a call from a fellow mom, sobbing. I posted on FB what Connor had texted to see if any local moms were getting information.

Then Connor stopped texting.

I waited…

Fifty-four minutes later he called and said the FBI broke the door and were rushing them out. In those 54 minutes I must have fielded 14 calls. At one point, I started shaking from inside out, head swimming and knees buckling, I was praying to whomever could hear me that it was just a false alarm. Then helicopters started flying overhead.

It was real.

Connor described the closet door opening with five FBI shining flashlights in and screaming, “Get up! Hands up! Get out! Go! Go! Go!”

He was lead across the street where he was directed to sit. He said there were more police and guns than he had ever seen. Backpacks were left behind. I kept seeing Connor’s car on CNN as it was parked directly across from the freshmen building and the carnage. There was a mile perimeter around the school so I drove as close as I could. Channel 10 grabbed me and interviewed me. I hear it was played on a loop, because I went political immediately.

Connor called and said they were directed to walk to the library. It was a half a mile walk. The drama kids were crying or catatonic. He walked a girl to the library as she was moving in circles. Connor was more concerned about the girls and me than himself.

He lost three friends.

Connor has known the shooter since middle school. He was violent and angry then. Connor said he flipped desks and was constantly being suspended. At that time, the shooter’s mother was alive and living in a house four streets west of us.

Danielle started calling from California as she was getting texts from friends. She was stunned and upset. Parkland is a three-ringed circus. You may have seen Connor’s drama-student friend with Anderson Cooper.

I am numb, I am angry, I am profoundly grief stricken. I know these teachers and parents. I am so tired of the politics and the NRA. So tired. Those who call for no action are awful humans. Period.

The defunding of public schools, the increased burden of testing, the stress of doing more with less, troubled kids who don’t get help, and the constant criticism of public education have all helped lead to this.

The teachers were heroes. They protected our children. And our governor could not find the humanity to acknowledge them. Our sheriff—I know him as a parent here—gets on TV asking for more law enforcement. I want to throw bricks at this point.

The football field is littered with teddy bears and Valentines and shoes kids dropped as they fled. It’s surreal. All of it. So now I am two for two. Both of my children have experienced school shootings in America.

It was a slaughter at the school. And our little peaceful city is forever changed.

Danielle has joined us this weekend. We are holding on tight as a family.

So now Connor’s high school experience is narrowed to this one event at the end of senior year which should be a time of celebration.

I may be broken, but I am activated. We are trying to look to the future.

There is no word as to when school will reopen. My dad was allowed to pick up Connor’s car today. Backpacks are still being searched. The teachers I have spoken to are devastated—completely and utterly defeated. We have all been interviewed by the FBI. Every parent of every student.

We need to do better. We need to vote better. Politicians must act on gun control [ As you will see below, Ro's call to "act on gun control" is supported by psychological research] and on mental health to protect our children. We need to respect our teachers: Two teachers have sheltered my children.

I will continue to write and to use my voice as we navigate this road back to something better.

Rosemarie’s plea to help navigate the road to end gun violence in schools is not subtle. “We need to vote better.” So the next time you vote, find out your candidate’s views on guns. Also read: “Mass Shootings: What Role do Guns Play?”[4] a research-based post in Psychology Today where Linda Woolf, Ph.D., answers the question of “Why in America?”

Woolf clearly lays out the research evidence: “The ‘secret’…is the role of guns,” She writes: “The key feature that separates the U.S. from other nations around the globe is the availability and access to guns, particularly highly destructive semi-automatic weapons of war.” Most mothers know this from common sense. It's time to pay attention to research that points out the role of guns in school shootings.

References

[1] McCarthy, T., Beckett, L., & Glenza, J. (2017, Oct. 3). America's passion for guns: Ownership and violence by the numbers. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/oct/02/us-gun-control-ownership-violence-statistics

[2] Berkowitz, L., & LePage, A. (1967). Weapons as aggression-eliciting stimuli. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 7, 202–207.

[3] Bushman, B. J. (2013). The “weapons effect.” Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/get-psyched/201301/the-weapons-effect

[4] Woolf, L. M. (2018). Mass Shootings: What Role Do Guns Play? Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-fight-against-hate/201802/mass-shootings-what-role-do-guns-play