It’s been almost 18 years since I lived through a school shooting. My good friend, Barry Grunow, was murdered on the last day of school by a student who brought a gun onto our campus. The recent Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting has opened up some old wounds.
Do the people I worked with know how much and how often I think about them? Do Barry’s kids know how much I valued and honored their dad? Does Pam (Barry’s widow) know how often my heart breaks for Barry’s absence in her life? Do the students I taught after the shooting know how much they are in my prayers? Do the students I teach now know the reasons why I am so nosy? Do my own children know how much I love them? Does the public know that the last day of school will always cause a crazy combination of aggression, fear, loss, hope, and courage in my soul?
That day changed so much about my life and I realize now that we all have different callings. For some of you, it may be politics, some mental health, some children, some something else. I ask that if you find that this shooting has caused a fire in you, then find a way to get involved. Don’t just talk about it. There is so much to be done.
If your passion is politics, then get involved and vote, lobby, campaign, protest, organize; if it’s your children, then talk with (not just to) them, listen to them, ask questions, support them, know their friends and their interests, monitor their social media. If it’s children in general, volunteer at schools to mentor students, get out in your neighborhoods and meet people, help teachers; if it’s mental health, research, learn, ask questions, volunteer.
I don’t have all the answers, but I know that when I decided that I would continue teaching, I did so with a pledge to my friend Barry’s legacy in and out of the classroom. Every year, I conquer my fears, I make sure my students feel honored, valued, safe. I make sure they get help when they need it. I attend their sporting events, sponsor them, mentor them, stick up for them, go to court for them, stand beside them when they make bad decisions. And I still question if I’m doing enough.
I ultimately wrote this because the pain is just beginning for the people affected by the Parkland shooting and it would be great if we could all find an active role in helping them heal from this tragedy – because almost 18 years later, the wounds are still tender.
Dorothy Ryan Schroader, WEST PALM BEACH
Editor’s note: Schroader is a teacher at Santaluces High School in Lantana.