I was 10 years old and in fourth grade on Dec. 14, 2012 when a shooter killed 20 children and six adults in an elementary school at Sandy Hook. It could have been me, or my sister who was in kindergarten at the time.
It also could have been me at Parkland, when I was a freshmen in high school only an hour away from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. Or since I am Jewish, at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Two days ago, I was at a large shopping center at the time when the El Paso shooting occurred.
At 16, I consider myself lucky to be alive, because I know that there is a significant chance that one day someone I know and love will not escape. I should not feel this way, nor should anyone else remaining untouched by the grasps of violence affecting so many. We are supposed to have an unalienable right to live and live unafraid, without fearing for our lives every day.
But I do live afraid. So do many Americans. It’s hard not to, when 31 people died in two mass shootings in the span of 24-hours and there have been more mass shootings than days in 2019. I constantly check for the exits when I enter a movie theater or concert, calculate an escape route for each one of my six classes every year, and monitor to make sure no one comes into the CVS or Walmart I am shopping at with a gun.
My already-heavy backpack is further weighed down by the bulletproof panel my mom bought me to take to school each day. Growing up like this is a uniquely American experience, one that characterizes the lives of millennials and Gen Zers.
And though I identify as an activist, I wish I did not have to. There is a large part of me that resents the fact that fellow teens and I have to wake up and focus on whether the government will pass the simplest background checks bill, or if there will be a shooting near me that kills someone I know.
I resent it because it should be adults and elected government officials focusing on these issues.
I would much rather spend my time dancing around the house, modeling clothes and makeup for my friends, and going to the beach. You know, typical things that those in government think teenagers do when they call us incompetent and assert that we do not know anything about politics, all the while allowing the gun violence epidemic to continue in an endless cycle. But I can’t.
Because I feel I have a moral obligation to myself, my sisters, and my friends to make sure we make it out of school alive. I feel I have a moral obligation to future generations to make sure they do not grow up like this too.
If we do not do something (besides offering thoughts and prayers), future generations will grow up like this too.
And I cannot in good conscience allow that to happen, because I know how painful it is to wake up everyday knowing there is a chance more will lose their lives.
I feel the pain that comes with watching the news of shooting after shooting after shooting, knowing that every time, it could have been me.
Nicole Markus, junior,
Miami Palmetto Senior High