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The Full Suburban: Latest school shooting breaks this mother’s heart again

UPDATED: Sun., May 29, 2022

Joseph Avila prays Wednesday while holding flowers honoring the victims killed in Tuesday’s shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. An 18-year-old gunman barricaded himself in a classroom and began shooting, killing fourth-graders and their teachers.  (Jae C. Hong/Associated Press)
Joseph Avila prays Wednesday while holding flowers honoring the victims killed in Tuesday’s shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. An 18-year-old gunman barricaded himself in a classroom and began shooting, killing fourth-graders and their teachers. (Jae C. Hong/Associated Press)
By Julia Ditto For The Spokesman-Review

This is not a funny column. I simply cannot be funny right now. As I was sitting down to write, I decided to check the news and was immediately hit with the headline: “Thirteen dead in elementary school shooting.”

This was in the early hours of the tragedy at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, before the death count was confirmed to be 21. My heart dropped.

“Not again. Please, please, not again,” I thought. As I read about the shooting, my mind flashed back to 2012, when it was Sandy Hook Elementary that had been the scene of such a tragedy. Twenty children and six teachers were murdered that day, gunned down in cold blood.

Back then, I had three kids in elementary school. I was saddened and scared; sending my children to school the day after Sandy Hook was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do.

I walked them to the front doors and put on a brave face as I kissed them goodbye – and then I cried all the way home. I watched the clock that day, literally counting down the minutes until they were back safe at home with me.

Now, I have two kids in elementary school. One of them, Emmett, is a fourth-grader – just like the children who were killed last week in Texas. I look at pictures of those who were lost, and I see Emmett; it’s more than my mother heart can take.

When a shooter opened fire in 2017 at Freeman High School, taking the life of Sam Strahan, I happened to be out to lunch with some friends to celebrate my birthday.

Our phones all started pinging at the same time, so we pulled them out and saw the news – and discovered that our kids’ schools were in lockdown. We quickly paid our bill and left the restaurant, no longer in a celebratory mood.

My route home took me past the middle school where my two oldest children were attending, and as I drove by and saw all the shades drawn in the classrooms, I thought of my children behind those walls, hiding with their classmates like prey from a predator.

It made me weep and it made me scared, but most of all it made me mad. How dare we allow our children to feel and act like prey in the name of our “gun rights”?

I am not an activist or someone who thinks all guns and gun owners are evil, but I believe there is no reason why guns and assault weapons should be available to anyone and everyone who meets the shockingly low bar to get one.

Some say they enjoy collecting, or they’re avid hunters, or they want to protect themselves. Some may be prepping for a doomsday-end-of-the-world scenario. To that, I say: Hell’s already here. We’re living in it.

Nineteen kids getting gunned down in their classroom, preceded by more than 200 other shootings just in this year alone, we have crossed over to some other side of humanity that is beyond the pale.

I had a reader ask me once how I talk to my children when things like this happen. What do I tell them? How do I reassure them? I wish I had the answer.

I’d like to say that I try to focus not on the evil, but on the love. Because light always outshines darkness, and human goodness will always overcome depravity and evil.

Like the teacher in Sandy Hook whose body was found alongside an autistic boy in her class, her arms wrapped around him as she tried to protect and comfort him before they died.

Like the first responders who stand in the line of fire, considering the lives of the people they are sworn to protect to be of more value than their own.

Like the love of parents for their children, which is the nearest example to God-like love that we can witness in this life. But even focusing on all of that love, I am still furious. This insanity has got to stop.

Teaching and showing love for each other, banning assault weapons, requiring that people wanting to buy any type of firearm be signed off by a mental health professional and locking up weapons that are kept in the home seem like reasonable places to start.

If some of these things had been the case in the near and distant past, 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, would be alive today, as would 10 people going about their grocery shopping at Tops supermarket in Buffalo, New York.

And countless others who have been sacrificed on this altar of purely American lunacy. No more of this. Our hearts can’t take it.

Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and a random menagerie of farm animals in Spokane Valley. She can be reached at dittojulia@gmail.com.

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