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School shootings are always difficult for me.

Always.

When I was a sophomore, just 15 years old, a boy in my grade got expelled for having a hit list.

I was on it.
My ‘crime’ against him? I said no to a date. We’d never spoke before he asked, and never spoke after, and that ‘no’ was going to cost me my life.

The school called to tell my parents about it.

I answered the phone. I never told them.
How could I? I didn’t want them to be afraid that their little girl was going to die for daring to show up and get an education.

I knew they would be afraid, because I was afraid.

I started to beg my parents to move. Let me go to school somewhere else, anywhere else.
I told them it didn’t matter that I would have to find all new friends, and adjust to an all new curriculum halfway through high school.

I could handle it, I said.

(I want to feel safe, I didn’t say.)
My parents gave in. We moved to a new town.

Something I didn’t expect: I was still afraid. Every day, I worried that today would be the day that a classmate snapped and the school would drown in a rain of bullets.
I only attended that school for three months before we were called into a hard lockdown.

For those old enough never to have gone through the drills, a hard lockdown means the lights go off, the doors get locked, and you must be silent and still until it is announced otherwise.
And I thought: it’s here. It’s finally happening. I had imagined this moment so many times, and still felt unprepared.

And then the news alert came on my phone.

It wasn’t my school.

It was Sandy Hook Elementary, about 30 minutes away.
My gym teacher gets nauseous when she’s stressed. I know this because her best friend from college worked there, and she couldn’t reach her, and she was so worried that she was losing her best friend to a school shooting only one year after they’d graduated together.
The fear never left me. A copycat threat got called into my school - my new school, that I’d begged to attend in hopes of feeling safe - and the boy got arrested.

I was still afraid.

I carry that fear with me. Malls, movies, concerts, churches.
A good friend of mine lost a friend in a shooting near her college. On the anniversary of it, I brought her a slice of pie, and told her that while our trauma isn’t the same, it’s similar enough to understand.
I was two when Columbine happened. I have never known an America where mass shootings, and school shootings, were not the norm.

We are failing a whole generation of kids who deserve to feel safe, who deserve to experience learning as something joyful, and not traumatizing.
This will keep happening until we change it.

#JusticeIsOnTheBallot for me, and everyone who faked being sick when the terror of going to school was too much.
#JusticeIsOnTheBallot for my friend, who still grieves.
#JusticeIsOnTheBallot for #SantaClarita

We can’t wait.
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