A generation afraid

Students have grown up afraid of gun violence in school.

By Sophia Corsetti, Collegian columnist

I woke up on February 15, 2018 with a pit in my stomach. The day before was supposed to be filled with love as it had been every year previous. Instead, our country had suffered another school shooting that took the lives of 17 innocent people. And even though I was many miles away from Parkland, Florida, I felt deeply affected by this shooting in particular. I got out of bed and realized that for one of the first times, I was scared to go to class. The only other times I had anxiety about going to school were when I had a big test or presentation. I felt a sense of sad dread as I shut my door and trekked to my lecture. A mass shooting used to be a figurative thing that happened to others; now, it is a literal threat I have come to expect to encounter. Is this the world we live in?

The answer is yes. I spent the rest of that day tensing up when I heard a loud bang, even if it was just a door slamming shut. I felt a slight pang of fear every time the door to my lecture hall opened in the middle of class. I analyzed every person that came into the room. Did they have a large black bag or a big backpack? Did they look shifty? I felt so stupid for being so scared of my fellow classmates. It was alarming and disheartening how my mind wandered to such fear in what used to be a safe place. What seemed irrational for so long was now paralyzingly closer to reality. I could barely focus because I was so anxious. It wasn’t just Feb. 15 that I felt this way. It was, and still is, every day after.

A mass shooting used to be a figurative thing that happened to others; now, it is a literal threat I have come to expect to encounter.”

Why am I terrified of everyday life? I know I cannot be the only one. Our generation has been exposed to such violence and public terror that we’re growing up with an element of fear. I carry paranoia with me everywhere I go now. I feel vulnerable in most public spaces. At times this vulnerability feels incomprehensible. The likelihood of a car accident should be much more terrifying than a mass shooting. Yet when I drive, I feel so in control that I could somehow make up for the mistakes of other drivers. Something about a mass shooting, the power of a gun and my own fragility, feel so far out of my control. It is painful to think of how little I could do while staring down the barrel of a gun.

When I look at the students who were victims of the Parkland shooting, they all look like me. They look like the people I love: happy, alive, vibrant, growing, learning and young. The fear and anxiety I foster feels closer and closer to home with this resemblance.

The fear of a school shooting is something that will always be in the back of my mind. No matter where I go, and no matter who I’m with. I may have never lived through one. I hope I never have to. Yet I feel permanently scarred by the frequency of these events in our country. It has transformed a part of me into someone that is a little on edge at all times.

I don’t know what to do with this fear or how to live with it. I watched the videos from inside of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Those images can’t be unseen or unfelt in any sense. It is the driving force behind a lot of my fear. This fear is justified, but it should not paralyze us. I may be more alert, more on edge, more vigilant, but I hope the fear motivates. In a broader sense, I hope this fear that has been instilled in all of us drives changes. I hope it pushes our country to do better, to take bigger steps politically and to unite for change. I do not know if mass shootings are just something I’m going to have to get used to as a citizen of this country. I hope with everything in me something changes. I don’t want to hear a loud bang and wonder if it was a gunshot or a door slamming. I don’t want to wonder if my days are numbered. I am heartbroken by these events and I want change.

Sophia Corsetti is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]