Updated: May 28, 2022
A hat I wear with pride is as a consultant to Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools. This program promotes the inclusion of students with intellectual disabilities in all aspects of the school community. Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, is a Unified Champion School. It is a place of learning that fosters a climate of acceptance. Being a Unified Champion School (USC) makes Robb Elementary a branch of my extended family.
The Sesstry series honors extended branches of the family as well as the relations we dub close kin. We identify with those distant cousins; we celebrate their triumphs and milestones. We mourn with our espoused brothers and sisters when they suffer unimaginable tragedies. Losing babies to senseless violence such as the slaughter at Robb Elementary surpasses a level of grief extended family members should never have to experience.
In education, all children are our children. The 576 students at Robb Elementary are not merely the most recent news story. Eliahana Cruz Torres, who will no longer swing her baseball bat toward the bleachers, is my loss and a loss to my UCS family. Among the children who died, blossomed a leader who would have shown fellow students how to accept the slightly different classmate. The thought of being denied the joy of his story breaks me.
Countless challenges burden teachers every day. Most are not in the curriculum covered in schools of education. Placing one’s body in the path of a hail of bullets to protect your students is never mentioned. To lose the gifts of seventeen-year veteran teacher Eva Mireles and her co-teacher, Irma Garcia, is heartrending for our education family. Rest well, my sisters.
A myriad of rituals and traditions accompany the passing of family members. Tragically, the United States has formalities to accompany the destruction of life in our schools when gunfire annihilates the routine of classroom life. Moments of silence, mounds of flowers and teddy bears, thoughts, and prayers. The carnage at Robb triggers – pun intended - the rituals followed at Sandy Hook, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Virginia Tech, and Columbine.
The time has come to abandon the rites of bereavement after school shootings. Their very existence is vile and validates an acceptance of the habitualness of the savagery ravaging schools. No more political speeches and twenty-four-hour news coverage until the protests fade. No more sham outrage, feigned because soon a nation with more guns than people will go back to business as usual.
The response to death and violence changes when a member of our family passes. We are never quite the same. See these victims and those who came before them as members of an extended family, so you will never be the same. Visualize Jailah and Jace as children close to you and respond with renewed vigor against those who cavalierly turn a blind eye to their murder.
For the sake of Uziyah, Ellie, and Xavier, demand that military-grade weapons be restricted to military use and reject their availability to civilians. Who would ask for less if they held Tess, Alithia, and Annabelle as family?
Memorializing our bloodline is essential to preserving our heritage. Honoring and protecting the family gifted to us through shared experiences sustains our humanity.