Congressional representatives -- they're just like TikTok teens? As rioters attacked our Nation's Capitol on Wednesday, several government officials inadvertently completed a gut-wrenching rite of passage familiar to nearly every American student -- weathering the visceral terror of a lockdown. Since Columbine, more than 187,000 students have experienced a school shooting as of 2018, according to The Daily Beast, as most schoolchildren regularly partake in active shooter drills, which some experts say is an ineffective, scarring measure, furthering the anxiety-inducing idea that unspeakable acts of violence can happen even in theoretically safe, educational settings.
After member of Congress were forced to take shelter under their desks before being escorted off the premises, amid what some are dubbing an act of domestic terrorism, students and young people from accross the nation have spoken out on social media, sharing their hopes that this traumatizing experience will prompt legislators to empathize with survivors of school shootings, and pass appropriate legislation.
"I feel so bad for our Congressmen and women, like no one deserves this, they didn't deserve this," TikTok influencer, @gadonkoze said in a recent video. "But like, because of some of the policies they've passed or like failed to pass, this is just another random Tuesday at a random American public school. I mean who doesn't remember fearfully huddling underneath their desk because some armed madman has entered their school?" She then ended her post with a chilling, and eerily relatable rhetorical question. "If you left school without having your life threatened at least once, did you really go to an American public school? No!"
Meanwhile, several youngsters took a different approach, sarcastically creating video letters to our legislators, poking fun at some of the government's seemingly dismissive active shooter safety tips.
"Dear Congress, just lock the door, turn off the lights, huddle in the corner. Idk maybe they will just move on to the next room. Sincerely, the K-12 American student body." reads a text video posted by user @angelaholmessss, which has already garnered more than 3.2 million views.
"Dear Senate, these are some tips in case you ever find yourself with another active shooter on the premise," TikTok user @kaptin.kenuckles said in a video posted Thursday, before recounting a number of of common safety protocols, like barricading doors, running in zig-zag lines when escaping a perpatrator, and playing dead. "Ok, now you just survived an active shooter! congrats!" he quipped. "I really really hoped this helped. Sincerely, every member of the American student body."
And it's not just TikTok-ers getting in on the action. Several education professionals have posted similar comments on social media. Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, a bestselling novelist and self-described high school humanities teacher, shared one of her Freshman students' biting remarks about why they have little sympathy for our lawmakers, in a now-viral tweet.
"'I don't feel sorry for congress at all. Oh, I'm sorry, did you have to hide under your desk because of guns? Wah wah wah. I've only had to do that six times since kindergarten. School is terrifying. Maybe now they'll pass gun reform.' - one of my 9th grade students, today," she wrote, in a post that has recieved more than 566,000 likes.
"I was a teacher in my building in 2012 when we had a school shooting," wrote userv @jrun67, in response to another tweet about the topic. "Watching what happened in the Capitol yesterday triggered me. Unfortunately, they now know the terror of feeling trapped and helpless, not knowing if others around you are dying. #shameontrump"
@jrun67 is not alone -- other school shooting survivors and families who have lost loved ones to gun violence also chimed in to this conversation. Mollie Davis, a survivor of a 2018 shooting at Great Mills High School in Maryland 2018 that left one of her classmates dead with another shot in the leg, spoke with NBC News about how watching the events unfold at our nation's Capitol served as a painful reminder of hiding from a gunman in her high school classroom.
"It brought back all of those feelings from sheltering in place and stuff," Davis explained. "I feel so bad for all the people that were forced to shelter in place, because that's traumatizing, and that's going to cause trauma that lasts. ... That's going to impact them for the rest of their lives."
Davis further elaborated on these sentiments on Twitter. "Today I am thinking of the trauma that the elected officials, staffers, journalists and custodians who were in the Capitol yesterday will carry with them long after this week. As someone who went through a school shooting I can empathize and my heart aches for them," she wrote, noting that we "owe it" to our elected officials "to not forget the events of 1/6/21."
Abbie Guttenberg Youkilis, whose niece was killed in the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, echoed Davis' statements.
"Seeing fearful members of Congress barricaded in their offices is reminiscent of what happens during a school shooting," she wrote on Twitter. "I hope they remember the terror they felt next time they have a chance to support gun safety."
Although I've been extremely privileged in avoiding active shooter situations, events like these, and even the safety preparations surrounding them, can be truly terrifying. At 24 years old, I still vividly remember my first lockdown drill in 2002. My first grade teacher explained to my classmates and I that her job was to protect us, that she'd, do anything, even give an attacker our coveted TV, where we screened our beloved reruns of Bill Nye the Science guy, to ensure our safety. As our teacher quietly usherd us into seculded a corner of our classroom, I remember feeling confused and scared, a common reaction that has likely intensified to unimaginable levels of terror for children attending school in the wake of 2012's Sandy Hook shooting, where 20 young students and six school staff lost their lives. No kid should ever have to grapple with their mortality in this way -- especially at school.
On Wednesday, members of Congress had the misfortune of experiencing a similar fear, one America's youth knows all too well. Yet as these leaders cope with this painful trauma, they should take with them a sense of empathy, understanding these feelings are not at all uncommon, a notion they hold the power to change. With their help, they can build a nation where no student, teacher or Congressperson ever experiences this horror again.
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