Letter from Jean Reidy

Dear Courageous Students,

I remember a world when schools were sanctuaries. When doors were unlocked. When there were no metal detectors or security cameras. When there certainly were no active shooter drills. When the world was welcomed into schools because no one could imagine harm on its heels. After all, schools were for nurturing, embracing, teaching and learning. Schools were free of guns.

But then came the heartbreak and horror of Columbine and its aftermath, when they locked the doors at my kids’ grade school and high school and the rugby coach became the security guard. I hated that it was happening while wondering if it was enough.

Then came Aurora and its aftermath, when we avoided movie theaters for months. And when we finally returned and the doors were closed and the lights were lowered, and my daughter broke down in fear, I wondered how it would end. If it would end.

I remember hearing that first news report of Sandy Hook and my shock at the sheer number and ages of those tiny victims. And I remember President Obama desperately trying to enact gun control legislation, with the faces of those Sandy Hook angels fresh on our minds. And his plea fell on deaf ears.

I remember Las Vegas and the horrifying videos of the helplessly, trapped concert goers. I remember Chuckie Cheese and Virginia Tech and Charleston and Sutherland Springs and the many, many more – too many more – mass shootings before and after and in between. I hate that I have to list them, as if each event doesn’t deserve its own deep reflection. Because it does. They all do.

And now, tragically, you are on that list.

Gun violence has been woven into the fabric of our lives. It’s part of our stories. And it’s robbed you of innocence. Innocence you long for. Innocence you need. Innocence you deserve. Just the thought of an active shooter drill sounds like a scene from a dystopian novel. I didn’t grow up in a dystopian society. You shouldn’t have to. And yet you are.

I’m ashamed. We’ve failed you. We enjoyed our safe school past and have left you a terrifying legacy. You should not have to protect yourselves. That was our job. Because no matter how powerful the NRA might be, we had the ability to muster more power. To fight harder.

So now, inspired by your courage, I not only stand with you and support you, I’m joining you in action. And I’m sorry I’m so late to this fight. I’m pledging today to write letters. To make phone calls. To vote. To march. Always in favor of gun control. Because I hear you here in Colorado. And I’ll spread the word to make your voices heard from shore to shore of our great nation. Because we need more than background checks and age restrictions. We need a ban on assault rifles. Second Amendment be damned!

And while you’ve probably received enough “thoughts and prayers” to fill a thousand morgues, I will also pray. Because that’s just something I do.

Finally, if you’re wondering why it matters that a group of children’s and young adult authors are standing in solidarity with you, please believe this. We have made it our job to do all that we can to honor your perspective. To honor your stories. To honor your lives. Because you fill the world with hope. And because we love you.

Thank you for your courage!

With love and admiration,