Kendrick Castillo is the latest victim of this wrong. The only child of John and Maria Castillo, he was in a literature class, at school in a Denver suburb, not in a war zone, watching “The Princess Bride” when a classmate walked in and pulled out a gun. Castillo lunged at the gunman, the boy fired, and Castillo died.
What is it that numbs us to his death? Indifference? Acceptance? Or is it a silent thanksgiving, a “Thank you, God,” that this didn’t happen to our child in our town, that this didn’t happen to anyone we know?
It takes years and years of love and time and energy and faith and vigilance and good luck to grow a human being. A firm mattress. No sleeping on his stomach. A car seat. Safety locks and smoke alarms. Inoculations. Swimming lessons. Helmets. “Hold my hand.” “Look both ways.” Seat belts. Babysitters you trust and long talks about whom not to trust. “Be careful.” “Text me when you get there.” “Don’t get in a car with someone who drinks.” “I don’t care what time it is.” “Stay safe.” “I love you.”
The pull of a trigger ends it all. All the work. All the dreams. All the years. In the flick of a finger. In the blink of an eye.
He was a hero, people say. To justify this? To make sense of the senseless?
The news of another school shooting should stop us all in our tracks. But school shootings are just shootings now. They’re like car crashes, always a tragedy, yes, catching us off guard, upsetting us, but not for long. Car crashes are the number one killers of our kids and gunshot wounds are number two. “Compared to other high-income countries, American children aged 5 to 14 are 21 times more likely to be killed with guns; and American adolescents and young adults aged 15 to 24 are 23 times more likely to be killed with guns,” writes everytownresearch.org.
This is the America we live in.
Other countries do a lot of things differently. In March, for example, other countries around the world grounded Boeing’s 737 MAX or denied it airspace, realizing that these planes might have a problem because within five months two of them crashed, killing all 346 people on board.
But our Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which certifies US aircraft safety, said initially that it had no data “to draw any conclusions or take any actions” and gave the OK for the 737 MAX to keep flying. Which it did, until the FAA (Under pressure? Now in the spotlight?) finally grounded it three days after the March 10 crash.
Follow the money.
Our government is not protecting our children. So, if we want them safe, we have to protect them ourselves. What if parents all over the country stood their ground and said, “I am not sending my child to school again until school is safe.” And everyone stayed home with their kids. What if doctors didn’t show up for surgery and pilots didn’t show up to fly planes and trains sat idle and stores were closed and everything stopped. What if teachers across this country refused to teach?
The loss of dollars? The impact on the economy? This would get the government’s attention.
It’s rare, death at the hands of a killer at school. But rare, too, is an airplane falling from the sky. The difference is when an airplane crashes, there is immediate action because a plane crash is not great for business. People get afraid. And stop flying.
I’m afraid for our kids. And our kids are afraid, too. They have active shooter drills. They know what can happen. But we keep sending them to school, anyway.
If you look at statistics, you can convince yourself it isn’t so bad. There aren’t that many school shootings. But if you look at the face of Kendrick Castillo, you know exactly how bad it is.
Beverly Beckham’s column appears every two weeks. She can be reached at [email protected].
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