Editor’s Note: See Jane Write now publishes personal essays by writers who identify as women, non-binary folks, and our allies. Learn more here.
by Tina Bausinger
The gunshot rips through the air, and I feel it in my chest as it explodes in my ears. There’s a ringing noise clouding my thoughts as I smell the smoke. My hands shake as I nearly drop the gun in the untamed grass.
All I can think is No.
No, I don’t want to fire again.
No, I don’t want to hold the heavy butt in my hands, the weight indescribable, feeling it stretch my arms and tighten in my shoulders. No, I don’t want to see its black lead, dark as a crow’s wing, gleam in the muted sunshine. No, I don’t want to hear the thundering boom, loud as a cannon, as the bullet screams through the trees.
In my mind’s eye, I don’t see the lovely clearing, studded with buttery yellow wildflowers, a forgotten passage.
Instead, I see parents dropped to their knees, sobbing, praying.
I don’t smell the fresh earth, dewy from this morning’s rain.
Instead, I smell the tang of fear eating my nostrils.
I don’t hear the lonesome call of a pair of quails in the gnarled, gray branches above.
Instead, the agonized screams of parents begging someone to get their children out echoes in my consciousness.
I don’t feel the gun slip from my hands into my husband’s palm.
“You okay?” he asks, his green eyes reflecting concern. This was supposed to be fun. It’s just a day of target practice on the farm. I’ve never shot a gun before. He’s a veteran, no stranger to a weapon. I feel as if I’m going to cry.
I feel my blood thumping in my temples, my breath bursting in my lungs, the tears stinging my eyes. The early signs of a panic attack.
The memory of the multiple news articles released after the shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, once again calling for the arming of teachers is seared behind my closed eyes like the flashbulb of a camera.
Since May of last year, I’ve had people close to me express concern. They don’t understand why I personally seem so affected by that shooting, especially in Texas, where it seems shooting is a way of life. “Of course, it’s sad. Tragic. But you need to try to find some joy. Why do you let this get to you so much?”
Why indeed? Is it because I was sitting at my desk in my own school, not too far away from Uvalde at all, when I heard the news?
Is it because I remember Parkland, I remember Sandy Hook, I remember Columbine?
Is it because when I log onto my college learning platform, it says the location for the school, Uvalde?
These are indeed factors, but none of them are the real cause. It is because, as a teacher, I am never allowed to forget how dangerous my job is.
It is because I undergo yearly trainings where we are put in active shooter simulations and hear the stories of teachers comforting kids in the bathroom as their classmate shoots up the school.
It is because other trainings require us to pretend to plug up bullet holes in a child or colleagues.
It is because just this morning, I attended a meeting in which we teachers were informed that our school had not fared well in the last inspection by TEA (ordered by Governor Greg Abbott) so as a result, they told us of plans to build an 8-foot fence around the perimeter of the school, with guard stations at each entrance.
Because of Uvalde.
You see, the shooter at Uvalde was able to scale the fence, only a mere 6 feet tall. So studies show, we were told, that an 8-foot fence would make us very safe.
But also, lock your doors. That will keep us safe.
I remember how once the horror was delineated online, before the victims were even named, the first accusation was placed on a teacher. The teacher who blocked the door.
Quickly, it was debunked as a door that was not blocked; it just didn’t close correctly. Like many doors of old schools in Texas.
But also, teachers, cover your windows on your door so the shooter will think the room is empty. Never mind that the schedule is posted outside each teacher’s door and online. That will keep us safe.
But also, teachers, always keep your doors closed, even if there is only one student. That will keep us safe.
But also: teachers should be weaponized, so we are told by government officials, and even our neighbors. Give a teacher a gun so she can shoot her six-year-old kindergartener student. So, she can protect her other students from a murderer.
At the age of 51, I fired my first gun. I didn’t hit the target. Not even close.
My daughter, who is 31, also a teacher, also fired her first gun. She didn’t hit the target either. In fact, without speaking a word to me, she burst into tears.
We were both thinking of Uvalde.
We are not allowed to forget the danger of school shootings, and how it is up to us to prevent another one.
By closing our doors.
By building a fence.
By bringing a gun.
By firing upon a child.
And there, in the meadow, I knew something in a way I had never known before.
I can never shoot a gun.
I cannot keep us safe.
I cannot forget.
I am not allowed.
Sadly, I am not surprised that the US has seen yet another school shooting. Because this happened at a private Christian school, I am not entirely surprised that the “Well, we took God out of schools, so he has removed his blessing” argument has been mute. In fact, there have been articles online that this might qualify as a hate crime investigation against Christians which makes me so furious I can hardly see straight.
At Uvalde, the “Good guy with a gun” narrative was also muted. But now, we are seeing the desperate grasping at straws as Republican lawmakers latch on to the “was the shooter trans?” argument. It does not matter. Not a single bit.
Just last week, my daughter was told in a teacher training that she should purchase a bucket to put survival supplies like water and bandages should her school experience a similar tragedy. The training also pointed out that the bucket could come in handy as a makeshift toilet should the situation last too long.
THIS IS INSANITY.
We cannot keep going on this way. We must enact change. Now.
Tina Bausinger (Ed.D. Candidate) is a dual-credit adjunct professor at Southwest Texas College in Uvalde, Texas. Her work centers on rural Southern women students and their struggles in the Academy.
For information on what you can do to help end gun violence, visit the Sandy Hook Promise.