Kids are Dead

On May 5th, 2009, in the last month of my last year of high school, a former cross-country teammate of mine walked into the building with a sawed-off shotgun. Earlier that day he had brought in a duffle bag containing thirty extra shotgun rounds and some molotov cocktails and stored it in his locker. He planned to use these to take the lives of his fellow students, but for some reason that I can never learn, he instead went into the bathroom next to the new gymnasium, sat down in one of the toilet stalls, turned the gun on himself, and pulled the trigger.

I can’t hear the news of the 28 dead in Connecticut without being transported back to that day, almost four years ago, waiting behind locked doors in the library, with little information other than that shots had been fired and no contact with the outside world, certain that somebody I loved was going to die and wondering whether one of the tables in the room, flipped on its side, would shield me from bullets. I remember the police leading us out of the building with our hands on our heads. And then I imagine if I’d been six instead of eighteen, or if I’d been a teacher in charge of the children. I imagine the kids running and screaming as the gunman came into their classroom. Or I imagine them sitting quietly under their desks, shaking, crying, hoping and praying that they wouldn’t be noticed. This was real; this is no political or media construct:

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Highlights of my term abroad: Part I – Australia

I didn’t do the whole travel-blogging thing this semester because I was really busy and it seemed better to reflect back once it was all over. So now that everybody’s gone, here are the highlights of a life-changing term with some amazing people on the bottom of the world.

Stradbroke Island

Photo Credit: Ann Epifanio

Photo Credit: Ann Epifanio

The very first day of the program, we took the group straight from the airplane to the University of Queensland’s research station on North Stradebroke Island in Moreton Bay. We had a lot of lectures about marine biology, material that at the time seemed impossible to learn given my lack of science experience. What stood out about this week was the people. 31 other students met us at the Brisbane airport that first day. I hadn’t met any of them before, with one exception. As the outsider in the group I really had to go out of my way to be outgoing and friendly, and I was extremely nervous the day they showed up. And at no point did any person in the group made me feel as if I didn’t belong there – a political science and economics major from a different school whose dad was the professor among biology students from Union College and Hobart and William Smith. As we body surfed at Cylinder beach that first afternoon I knew that it would be an amazing semester.

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