The first time I talked to her about it she was beyond worried and could not get ahold of me for hours, wondering where I was, forgetting what high school starting with a “C” in Littleton I taught at, or rather where my third round of observations and instruction was being held just before student teaching.

“Chatfield High School,” I later told her, and recounted how a friend was at neighboring Columbine that fateful day and he climbed out a window to live. This was 1999, before cell phones and before 9/11.
When we were sheltering in place, I knew this would change things — because who brings heavy firearms into a school and shoots and kills more than a dozen at Columbine, including a student in the youth group where I’m volunteering, a teen just a few years younger than me, who I saw on Wednesday nights and is now dead?

Only lunatics, or marginalized people, or those who are hurting, or people who feel the deepest pain of the world and feel alone.

I finally called her when I was back at my apartment and my voicemail was full from people who wondered how I was and cared. 24 years since then, everything has changed and nothing has changed.
Except now I am 40 something and still vulnerable and commanding a classroom of 30 of my own students and called to serve and protect — oh wait, maybe that means just teach English? I need to check my job description. They did not issue me any bullet proof vests or armory or shields.

I am called to teach. I love illuminating literature for students, and watching them grow in their writing, and to seek world literature and other lenses to mature as people and with broader perspectives.

I just thought all of this would be figured out by now. I do not want to become a statistic. I am tired. The countdown to summer starts when I return to school after Spring Break, and April is a difficult month for me and for many teens because I know all the chaos of emotions spills forth and April is a month of violence. I wish it was not this way. I hope for the best and pray our school is protected.

A friend in the Netherlands posted this picture of a magnolia tree in an almost-Dutch springtime and I can imagine resting underneath the tree on a bright blue sky day with sun filtering through the blossoms.

And that is where I go in my mind when I think of these terrible instances of violence in our country. I daydream, I disconnect. I hope it never crosses the threshold of my school. But if it does, I will do all I can to protect and save my students.