Preparing Little Brother for a Mass Shooting

A young person wears a backpack. (Photo credit: Adapted from Ian Mackay / Flickr)

By: Frances Kai-Hwa Wang (@fkwang)

The night before my youngest child – whom we call Little Brother – leaves on a four-day eighth-grade field trip to Washington D.C., I double-check his suitcase against the school’s packing list to make sure he has everything he needs. He has packed too many shirts and pants, and not enough socks and underwear. He forgot deodorant, a critical item for eighth-grade boys. The long-sleeved green school t-shirts that the students will wear at all times during the trip are in the dryer. The batteries for his camera and phone are charging in the kitchen. I tuck a box of musubi into his day pack as a snack for the bus. I remind him to brush his teeth every day and to text me every night.

Then I tell him what to do in case of a mass shooting.

Stay calm. Barricade the door. Duck behind furniture. Keep moving. Get out. Just get out.

Little Brother is thirteen years old.

And then, so that he does not worry, I lie to my son.

I tell him that since the president will be out of the country the week of his trip, Washington will probably be quieter while he is there.

I do not know if that is actually true. But, I do know that even if he were here, at home, he would not be any safer. Any of us could be caught in a mass shooting or a random act of violence anytime, anywhere.

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