That’s how seasoned travelers often describe the return home after an eventful, adventure-packed holiday. It takes time to re-adjust to time zones, work/life responsibilities, the general rigamarole of daily non-vacation life.
I was certainly expecting this last Friday night after returning from Croatia. Don’t get me wrong: I was thrilled to see the boys, the dog and the cats. However, after a memorable, wonderful time away, I knew that jet-lag, sea legs and an inbox full of emails awaited me upon my return. It’s always a bit of a bummer, the pain of reentry.
But I had no idea how bad it was really going to be. Or how much I’d wish I had just stayed put in the lovely Adriatic coast country I had just left behind. Let me explain.
Monday morning, I was back at the office, my husband was working from home, and our son was at his high school. We received text at 9:52am.
“Shooter at Collegiate.”
Our son attends a public magnet high school in St. Louis. There, he’s found a warm, welcoming environment to learn and become his best self. Collegiate is a similar school, located just a mile from our home in St. Louis. Our kid has many friends who attend there, and my heart instantly sank for them, their parents, their fellow students, and the children enrolled at the other high school on site in the building, Central Visual Performing Arts.
The rest of the day is a bit of a blur. Both schools had to be evacuated. All of our son’s friends, and our friends’ children, made it out safely, scrambling over desks, out windows, through hallways, over fences and a busy thoroughfare before they knew they were in the clear. Many of them saw evidence of the carnage, and that’s left them with trauma they will carry a long, long time.
Others were not so lucky.
Despite a swift police response, one young woman was killed, as was her teacher who threw herself in front of the gunman to protect her students. Seven others were injured.
And about that gunman? A former student. He came to the school planning to carry out a massacre. And he certainly had the means to do it: an AR-15 style gun and 600 rounds of ammo. The fact that he even had the gun at all is maddening. His family was monitoring his mental health treatment and meds. When he went to buy the gun from a licensed dealer at a show, he was turned down due to a red flag background check (thank you, federal law). However, due to Missouri’s utter disregard for any sort of common sense, he was able to obtain the firearm from a private dealer, who ostensibly didn’t run a background check.
When his mother called the same police department that would ultimately respond to the shooting two weeks later, she begged them to confiscate the gun. But again, thanks to something called the Second Amendment Protection Act here in the not-so-great Show Me State, they were unable to assist. She called a family friend, who tried to hide the gun. Her son was able to take it back, and stormed into the school days later.
You know this is a uniquely American problem, right? Anyone who has been anywhere else in the world certainly knows. Other places—the UK, Australia, and Canada--all endured terrible mass shootings, then did something about it legislatively, immediately. These countries had the wisdom to say “enough,” and make sure it was.
In the US, firearms are the top reason of death, surpassing all others, among our young people. Firearms account for 20% of all child deaths in the U.S., compared to an average of less than 2% of child deaths in similarly large and wealthy nations.
We simply lack the legislative backbone to make a difference. To question unfettered access to weapons of mass destruction, to make needed changes to a 200+ year old document our framers never meant to be taken as absolutely sacrosanct. And worse of all, as a collective nation, we’ve become numb to these incidents. There are so many, after all, and we’ve decided they are all acceptable.
I am still scorching angry. And I found myself wishing this week I lived somewhere else. Croatia, Canada, anywhere else that values my child’s life, and any child’s life, more than the right to feel like some sort of half-bit super-hero by arming one’s self to the teeth, no matter the collateral cost.
Americans like to think we are some sort of world leader. We think we’re better than other countries. Get out there, and you will see we are not in this regard. We only can be when we all stand up and demand change.
Pain of reentry, indeed.