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‘Not a matter of if but when’: School shooting survivor calls for real change

‘Not a matter of if but when’: School shooting survivor calls for real change

‘Not a matter of if but when’: School shooting survivor calls for real change
June 02
10:00 2022

“This is the Santa Fe Police Department. This is not a drill. A threat has been detected in the building. Follow lockdown procedures.”

We were ready. We repeated the drill like clockwork every year, making it muscle memory. We quietly got out of our seats and hid on the farthest wall. Our teacher turned off the lights, locked the door and gave us textbooks to use as shields. Anything is better than nothing. My friend Carlos sat only a foot from the door, breaking scissors and passing them down the wall.

Our minuscule shields and makeshift swords were a measly defense against bullets. We sat there planning our attack in case someone made their way through the door. What we didn’t know was the next school shooter was sitting among us in the dark, watching as we cried and messaged loved ones for four hours.

That day it was a false alarm, but the next month when he decided to act out his plan — this procedure wouldn’t save anyone.

After mass shootings, we look to the politicians who could have prevented them. Their response is there is no other way. Our cry for help falls on deaf ears and idle hands. For them it is just a story, a sad but necessary occurrence for the Second Amendment to remain protected. They make their Facebook post that lacks empathy and conduct press tours, saying “it could have been worse” and then they move on, enabling the vicious cycle to continue spinning.

For me and many others it is a permanent stain on our memories that follows us around. It constantly fogs our outlook on life, making us question what the point of going on is. I will always be reminded of the trauma at every therapy appointment, with every trigger and every empty apology. I now live looking over one shoulder while checking for the nearest exit, wondering when it will happen again.

It is not a matter of if, but of when.

On May 18, 2018, the fire alarm sounded during first period, signaling us to file out of the classroom and through the nearest exit. I stood in the Texas heat talking to my friends about the parking skills of our fellow classmates when a voice interrupted our discussion yelling at us to move back.

We started as a walk but were commanded to run. We rushed towards the street seeking safety, my eyes following the boys who were running to the student parking lot where I noticed the police cars lining the curb behind the art room at the back of the school.

“Pop. Pop. Pop.”

It sounded like someone banging on a metal trashcan lid. I took it as my signal to hide,  ducking behind the closest van. After pausing to breathe I joined the crowd moving towards the road.

I found the freshman girls basketball team who were in the gym next to the art room where the shooting was happening. They were shaken up but all there — thanks to their substitute teacher who pushed them out the door as bullets flew, saving their lives.

The Uvalde shooting is the most recent confirmation that thoughts and prayers accomplish nothing.

They are just empty gestures of righteousness to cleanse diplomats and politicians hands from any responsibility. We asked for gun control, but instead Gov. Gregg Abbott passed seven Second Amendment legislation bills into law — making it easier than ever to obtain a firearm only three years after the Santa Fe shooting.

The conservatives’ favorite line is that gun control won’t solve anything.

Instead, they believe more good guys with guns will defeat a bad guy with a gun. They fail to acknowledge the fact that the bullets will still fly — that they will still hit the innocent no matter the morality of who pulls the trigger.

In Santa Fe, teachers herded us like cattle towards a gas station away from the danger. I called my twin sister, who was at the front of the school with our younger brother — hoping for some information — but she was more lost than I was.

My phone vibrated, showing a message from my friends who were not at school that day.

“Are y’all okay?” Azia asked. The next message was a single word from my other friend Danika that made my heart sink.


Kyle was Danika’s younger brother and best friend. He was able to message her saying he had been shot in the arm, but he was okay. Only moments later she lost contact with him.

Kyle passed away in the art classroom, alone.

Some may say we were the lucky ones. I made it out alive that day. Physically I was fine, but mentally I will never be the same.

Other countries with stricter gun control do not have the same problem Americans are experiencing. I have seen multiple Facebook posts of people from Santa Fe saying, “Bad guys will always find a gun no matter the laws.” Here is my question to them: why is no other country experiencing this?

Children are not a sacrifice for your right to an automated weapon. We need to look at other countries and adopt their policies to ensure our school students will make it home. Our political leaders, in all branches, need to step up and protect their people from tragedies like this or we will continue losing people to preventable acts of terrorism.

Photo by Jami Hitchcock

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Jami Hitchcock

Jami Hitchcock

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