American Time | Confession of the Dean of a Community College

The shooting at a Tops supermarket in Buffalo last week was horrific. A primary school in Texas has been hit by a mass shooting this week.

It goes a long way in suggesting that I need to change the “mass shooting” to indicate which week I’m talking about.

Growing up in West New York, my first high-paying job in high school was at the Tops Supermarket. I immediately recognized the sign. The incident took place just half an hour from Lockport, where Oklahoma City bomber went to Timothy McVee High School. The area has a history. Western New York was once the center of extinction and feminism; The Seneca Falls Conference was held there, and the National Park for Women’s Rights is there. (We took the kids several years ago. It’s interesting to see if you’re in the area. I was surprised that the park is completely urban, but the rangers are still dressed in forest green.) Western New York is on the Canadian border, so it became part of the subway. My mother owned a historic house there for several years with a plaque in front that indicated it was once a stop on the subway. You can see the place in the basement where people were hiding. He left the place alone.

A place associated with extinction is beyond words to become a stage for racist genocide.

There is also a history of school shootings. Wife and I get married four days after the Columbine shooting. I remember when The Boy, five years old, came home from school and told us about the lockdown drill in his kindergarten class that day. I remember exactly where I was when I heard Sandy Hook. The image stuck with me was of the kids holding hands as the teacher led them through the parking lot. They were not much younger then my daughter. After the Parkland shooting, The Girl – who was in eighth grade at the time – walked out of class from her junior high in protest. (The acting principal of the school called me at work to try to discourage him. I listened politely, then told TG that we would support him in whatever he wanted to do.) The kids were excited about March for Our Lives, DC, so we I took it. The procession was peaceful, dignified and moving. We were glad we went, even we were upset that we had.

The murder of Uvalade comes just a few weeks after The Girl graduated.

Colleges have not been immune. I remember shooting at Virginia Tech and Umpkua Community College. (The latter was the only conference panel focus where I attended where I felt my typing was too loud.) For that matter, churches, movie theaters, and malls weren’t immune.

I’m old enough to remember that it wasn’t always like that. In my public high school in the 1980’s, our worst was the fire drill. “School violence” refers to students beating each other. The area wasn’t particularly rich or refined – the language used by the gym coaches back then would now be an opportunity to go to HR – but I don’t think the term “school shooting” was used at all.

It doesn’t have to be this way. I will not be able to mark the passage of time through the memory of the genocide. It doesn’t have to be this way.

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