I know. I know what’s coming to your world. I wish I didn’t, but I do. First is the shock. This isn’t supposed to happen here. It shouldn’t be here. It must be a mistake. Learning of the people who died. You will know their names, their faces, their hobbies, their goals, their families. You will feel the grief of their passing, no matter how much or how little you knew of them before 5/18/18.
There will be support. It comes in many forms. There’s a man from the Midwest who will come with crosses he made himself. He will write the names of the dead on them. This will be placed outside of your school and it’s where you will gather with other community members. Here there will be flowers, candles, signs, stuffed animals, prayers, people, news cameras, tears. You will drive by it and feel sad. Eventually they will take all that away, but the memory will never go away.
There will be therapy dogs. They will be there for months. They are adorable, comforting and they help. They give while asking for nothing. Their handlers do that same. I don’t know how they are able to be around all the grief all the time and not have a piece of their soul shrivel up. I give them so much credit.
There will be the Red Cross. They will come and have a food station by where the memorial is set up. Counselors will be set up and trauma trained therapists in your community and in nearby communities will come to help.
There will be candlelight vigils for the dead. Speeches will be made. Activists may be born from them. You will comfort each other and know that you are not alone in your grief. No one is a stranger there. Your grief bonds you in a way that you can’t know or understand until you live it.
There will be a blanket over the community. It’s heavy, weighted. Everywhere you go, it’s there. At the grocery store, the clerk will ask, “Is your family OK?” rather than “How are you today?” They know how you are. That blanket eventually lightens, but it’s always there.
There will be fundraisers for the families of the dead and the families of those who survived. T-shirts and bracelets to purchase and wear around your community. Restaurants to eat at where they donate some of their profits. Stickers and magnets to display on your cars.
There will be funerals and wakes and shivas to attend. You will wait in line to get in while listening to teenagers discuss which of these they will attend next and it will break you just a little bit more.
There will be kids who step up in ways that you cannot imagine. There will be heroes born. They now have role models who have been in their shoes for months to teach them the ropes. They can have their own secret office in their town to organize and keep the #NeverAgain movement moving along so that it will really be #NeverAgain.
There will be activists born. Parents who go home to bedrooms that will never hear the sound of their teens laughing again. They will raise their voices to lead the charge for change. They will have the likes of Fred and Max and Andrew and Lori to guide them and help them and grieve with them.
There will be people caling those same kids and activists crisis actors. They will say they don’t go to your school, don’t live in your community, aren’t who they say they are. They will say that this never happened in the first place.
There will be politicians who will say the right things, the things you want to hear, but who will do nothing to make change. There will be some who will fight for you and will try to change the status quo.
There will be scars. You will heal. You will move forward. But like a piece of broken fine china you lovingly glue together, you will always see the seam. The scars will always be there. You will never be the same.
And sadly, there will most likely be a time when you are able to write this to another community. Because as a nation, we seem to love our guns so much. We love them more than our children. And we refuse to create a health care system with adequate access to mental health care.
Please know, the Parkland community stands with you. We intimately know your pain, your grief, your hopelessness. We are here for you, we will fight for you and beside you to make this stop.