Why must we risk our lives to go to school?


Our country mourned the tragic events of a school massacre — again. But the day after the shooting at Uvalde, school life here at North Shore Hebrew Academy High School in Great Neck went on as usual. From Monday through Friday, my routine remained unchanged: I woke up, ate my breakfast, grabbed my backpack and kissed my parents goodbye before I hopped on the bus to head to school, my home away from home.
My school friends and I don’t have to make a conscious effort to walk in the shoes of your average American student. It’s not hard for us to understand and sympathize with the victims of the horrific tragedy in Texas and feel their grief. What we can’t wrap our heads around is why it is so hard for our country to actually do something — anything — to stop this horror from happening again and again and again,
I am not fooled by my seemingly sheltered Long Island upbringing in Nassau County, the safest community in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report. The unfortunate reality is that the shooting in Uvalde could have happened anywhere. The statistics are staggering. More innocent children die from irresponsible and unregulated guns than from car accidents, according to www.Sandyhookpromise.org. Sixty-eight percent of school shooters used guns that were accessible in their homes. At any time, one or more of the 4.6 million American kids who live in a home with a loaded gun can bring it to school and use it to end lives.
School-aged children like me have enough to worry about. We’re exposed to harmful vape smoke and all types of drugs. We’re warned against the dangers of drinking and texting while driving. We battle bullying, and mental health problems, and Covid. And yet, gun violence has become the leading cause of death among young people.
News outlets covered the heart-wrenching days that followed the shooting in Uvalde, but I fear the world has already become desensitized and diverted its short attention span to newer headlines. But for me, I suspect that no matter how long ago or comparatively distant the shooting took place, there will always be this constant, gnawing anxiety clawing through the depths of my subconscious, that something like this could happen to anyone — to my young brothers, to my friends and teachers, to me. I have an enduring fear, knowing that no school building is completely impervious to a safety breach.

Recently I was taking a chemistry test when my mind drifted, and a thought suddenly came to mind: If a student next to me were to start firing a gun, how would the security guard all the way at the front of the building stop him?
My peers and I have been trained in the event of a shooting to scan a classroom and think, where would be a good place to hide?
Our doors have automatic locking mechanisms, so when a student returning from the bathroom innocently knocks at my classroom door, I have to look to my teacher for reassurance that our lives aren’t in danger and that the person that we’re about to let into the room doesn’t want to kill us.
When I ask my 7-year-old brother what he learned in school, he brings up safety drills, in which the phrase, “Stop, drop and roll” has been replaced by the instructions to “Hide, don’t make noise, and don’t open the door to anybody, not even the principal, who might have a gun to his head.”
When the world encountered a global pandemic, we came together to tackle the problem as best we could. Schoolchildren are now living through their own national crisis, but as our cries echo in the classrooms, the rest of the country stays silent. When will we wake up from this living nightmare?

Ilana Greenberg is a freshman at North Shore Hebrew Academy High School in Great Neck.