By Contributor Nate Morris
“Our school is fucking getting shot up” reads the banner across student Matt Walker’s Snapchat post. His video shakes as his hand quivers from a mix of fear and adrenaline. He huddles among his classmates as hushed sobs and gasps for air form a soft cacophony in the background.
“Holy sh..,” Matt begins to say in a long, slow sigh of disbelief before thunderous gunfire erupts.
“HOLY SHIT! OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD!”
Matt cries as horrific screams surround him.
Gunsmoke fills the room and pieces of the ceiling begin to collapse as dozens of bullets pierce it through the door.
The gunman went door to door, firing methodically down hallways and into classroom windows.
News video captured students fleeing their high school to save their lives.
Screenshots reveal text conversations of parents telling their child to “hide” and “play dead” in order to survive.
Images of parents waiting in hellish angst for news of their son and daughter’s safety flooded the internet.
Natalie, a freshman at Douglas High School, said “I know three people in my classroom got hurt. I just saw blood everywhere.”
Nicole, a senior, recalled being whisked from the building by police. As they passed classrooms with broken glass windows, she was told “close your eyes… there’s nothing good to see in there.”
Melissa, a journalism and English teacher, hid with her 19 students in a classroom for more than an hour until she could be evacuated by a SWAT team.
Seventeen people were killed today at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Five are still fighting to stay alive in area hospitals tonight.
In America, attending school now requires that our kids fear for their lives.
In America, pursuing an education now requires parents live each day unsure of whether their child will return home to them.
Only in this country can shootings occur at eighteen schools in a span of just 45 days without sweeping legislative action, and only here can 30 mass shootings take place across 17 states in the same period of time without public revolt.
Only in the United States, where the National Rifle Association spends more than $60 million on political ads and contributions for pro-gun candidates is the ability to own a gun more valuable than the life of a child.
So, again, we sit through the fervent calls for prayer and await the deafening silence of inaction.
Again, we hear the governor of one of the most accommodating states for gun ownership in the nation ask grieving parents “How could this happen in this country? How could this happen in this state? You come to the conclusion that this is just absolute evil.”
And it is there, in that notion of evil, that notion of a force only combated by prayer, that those who resist any push for gun control legislation will blissfully reside.
In this world where the villain is some mythical monster unbound by laws, there is a sinister freedom. It is a freedom from guilt, responsibility, and shame. It is freedom from the understanding that faith without action is useless.
Above all, it is freedom from the acknowledgment that your inaction makes you complicit.
A demonic force did not murder seventeen children at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida just fifteen minutes before dismissal on a Wednesday afternoon. A white man carrying a magazine-loaded, gas-operated, semi-automatic AR-15 rifle legally purchased from a local gun store did.
Six of the ten worst mass-shootings in American history have occurred in the last five years. Five of these six have occurred in the last three years.
They, too, we all carried out by predominantly white men with guns.
After each of these tragedies (Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, Pulse Nightclub, Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs and now Stoneman Douglas High School), we plead for action and we pray for it to stop.
As of today, only fourteen states require firearm registration, nine require background checks to purchase a firearm, and just five have outlawed the sale of assault rifles.
The state of Florida does not fall under any of those categories. In fact, Florida law makes the creation or maintaining of any sort of record or registry of legally purchased firearms a felony.
And still, the governor is at a loss for how this could possibly have happened and our legislators once again call for prayer while stating that any call for reform is tantamount to politicizing tragedy.
These legislators, who so fervently lean on prayer as the sole method of change on this particular issue have seemingly forgotten the command of Scripture in the book of James:
“You foolish person! Do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?… As the body is dead without breath, so faith is dead without good works.”
These moments require deep, sincere, profuse prayer – but if our prayers do not have legs, nothing will move.
Tonight, our hearts are heavy. Over the next several days, as stories of the victims are uncovered, we will mourn over lives cut far too short, and this mourning will turn to anger, and anger to calls for action, and political promises will ensue. But it will fade.
We have not yet found the fortitude as a country to say “ENOUGH”.
We remain unable to value the protection of human life over our right to own a fabricated weapon designed solely to kill.
Until we find that fortitude, until we refuse to back down, and until we pass sweeping legislation outlawing bump stocks and assault rifles and requiring registries and background checks, nothing will change.
We will have this same sickening conversation again in a few short months about another school, or another mall, or another office, or another event shattered by the piercing sound of shrapnel.
Tomorrow, the halls and classrooms of a high school in South Florida will remain a gruesome crime scene.
Soon, when classes resume, seventeen lockers will stay shut. Seventeen desks will be empty. Seventeen lunches will be uneaten in the cafeteria. Seventeen seats will be unfilled at pep rallies and football games. Seventeen prom tickets will go unsold. Seventeen caps will be missing from the sky at graduation. Seventeen college acceptance letters will never be printed. Seventeen dreams will go unrealized.
Our kids, our friends, our family, our neighbors will continue to die until we finally decide to stand, to speak out, to mobilize, to act, and to vote. And this, all of this, the pure yet preventable hell of this day, is on our hands.
We are all responsible.
It doesn’t have to be like this.
**The thoughts and prayers of the Black Wall Street Times staff are with victims of the Stoneman Douglas shooting and their families – and with all victims and survivors of the epidemic of gun violence in this country. We stand with you in this fight.
We encourage our readers to become involved in their local chapter of Moms Demand Action or Every-town USA and call their congressional representatives at 202-224-3121 to demand they act to pass gun control reform legislation.
Nate Morris is a contributor to the Black Wall Street Times. Nate was born and raised in the Washington, D.C. area and moved to Tulsa in 2012 after graduating from Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia. He received his Master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma in 2015. Nate is a Teach for America alumnus and has worked in schools throughout the Tulsa area. He is an advocate for educational equity as well as racial and social justice throughout Tulsa and the nation as a whole.