Bittinger: Lock Down

Dec 12, 2017

I’m a volunteer for Everybody Wins, a reading program for elementary school children. And recently, I was reading with a nine year old third grader in the library of the school near where I live when an announcement came over the loud speakers that we were in a lock down and to find a secure space.

Immediately, the librarian led our group of readers to a secure room at the back of the library and told us to sit on the floor and not to speak. She pulled a curtain down over the window in the door so we couldn’t see out and no one could see in. And there we sat: four adults and four children with the librarian and the head of our reading program.

We waited for 10 to 15 minutes, not knowing if the threat was real – or not. For those few minutes, we really weren’t sure if we were going to live or die. And it actually crossed my mind that since I was the oldest person present, I should volunteer to go first if someone had to give a life. After all, I’d lived a long time, while the nine year olds had their whole lives to look forward to.

Then the door opened and we were told it was a drill.

Of course, I know that school lock downs save lives – as demonstrated in school shootings like those in Northern California and New Mexico.

So I’m not complaining about the lock down, but it’s been five years since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut where 20 children and six staff members were killed, and I simply can’t believe that these mass shootings not only continue, but are happening more frequently.

Even here in Vermont, where, according to one recent poll, 84% of Vermonters support universal criminal background checks on all gun sales, nothing much has changed in regard to gun regulation that’s both reasonable and more effective.

I’ve been told that no matter how many lives are lost, American gun culture is impossible to change. But then I recall how sociologist Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

But a change of this magnitude would need strong leadership.

And maybe about a million pink hats.