There is danger in the generalized statements of, We’re alright, We’re doing fine, and we’ve moved on. I heard these statements made over and over again following the shooting. There are two ways I’ve noticed “alright” and “fine” used. One way is acknowledging the fact that things aren’t good but that there is a measure of hope. Another way I’ve heard it used is with denial that there is a problem. I heard people using both forms after the shooting but every time I heard someone use it in a statement of denial it hurt me. Usually the people who would say, “We’re alright” were people who didn’t want to hear anyone talk about the shooting or any of the problems one might be facing because of it. To me, they might as well have said, “We want to pretend this didn’t happen so if you don’t mind keeping your pain to yourself it would make it a lot easier for the rest of us. Oh ya, clearly there is something wrong with you for not being able to pretend with all of us.”
We’ve moved on, has always been a statement that has baffled me. Doesn’t movement take time, action and effort? Again I find the statement, we’ve moved on, mostly used by people who would prefer to not acknowledge the fact that things are difficult sometimes. I would feel ashamed when people said they had “moved on”. To me it sent the message that if you weren’t able to have moved on as quickly, there was something wrong with you. For someone who already felt like they were going crazy, statements like this were a kick in the head. It wasn’t that I wasn’t trying to move, it’s just that there was a brick wall in front of me and it seemed like once I broke through that wall there was another one and another and another…… To me there will never be a time in my life when I can say, “I’ve moved on. The shooting has no affect on me”. Yes I’m moving on but it’s a process that takes effort, time and action. Pretending that the shooting didn’t happen or that it hasn’t changed me is like pretending my wedding day didn’t happen or didn’t change my life. One was a tragic event that has made life hard, the other was a joyous event that has enriched my life. They both happened and have changed the way I live. I don’t see the point or value in pretending either didn’t happen.
If you can’t tell, I have some qualms with the way things were handled after the shooting. I’m not sure why or where it started but there was a clear message sent that we, our school and community, were heroically going to overcome the shooting by…….pretending it didn’t happen and pretending that we were all okay. I think part of it was the way we responded to the press. We didn’t want the attention, we valued our privacy, so in someways we had to hide the magnitude of the tragedy from the press. Somehow that performance for the press leaked into our private lives. Another reason for the pretending was administrators in the school who felt the best way to “deal with it” was to act like it didn’t happen. In the process, those of us who were too overwhelmed to pretend were manipulated into being quiet about it so those who didn’t want to hear about it could be at peace. I understand not wanting to talk about it but if you can’t hear about it then your not “alright”, in my opinion. And guess what, it’s okay to not always feel alright. It is only my perception of it but to me there was a guiding opinion that said, “If we tell them they’re okay they will be okay, or at least they will pretend they are okay so we can pretend.” I feel like there was a great disservice done at the school to the teachers and the students. We were told, more or less, to be okay. If we weren’t, we were quietly brushed into the councilors office, advertising to anyone that might be struggling that they shouldn’t be. There has been such a stigma placed on talking about the shooting that to this day people react with discomfort and apprehension when it is brought up in a conversation. I understand emotion or grief but there is a sense of it being a taboo topic that only the “crazies” need to talk about. I for one don’t care if people think I’m crazy because I already know that I am so I will continue to talk, or at least type, about it.