Dear Gen Z,
Like many of you, my oldest child, Sammy, was only a few months old on April 20, 1999. That day two heavily armed students stormed Columbine High School outside Littleton, Colorado, and murdered 12 students and one teacher, injuring dozens of others before killing themselves. I was at home sick that day, snuggling with my infant son, when I heard what happened and saw the news. I was a typical hormonal new mom — I started crying and couldn’t stop (although I think most moms, hormonal or not, were in the same boat) — I just kept thinking, “how can I ever send my sweet, innocent little baby to a public school? He won’t be safe. What is the world coming to? Will I have to home school?” And like every other mother (parent) in America, a little piece of my heart died that day.
Fast forward to 2012 and Sandy Hook (and many other school shootings in between). The thought of someone being cold-blooded enough to take so many innocent young lives (20 were only in first grade!) was a nightmare beyond compare! Thoughts and prayers weren’t enough then either. Like so many other parents, I started signing countless online petitions after that, hoping my small actions might make a difference somehow. I also made a donation to the Sandy Hook Promise fund and my heart went out to the parents who lost their babies that day. Their sweet faces still haunt me.
Fast forward to 2018, after even more school shootings in between. In middle schools, high schools and colleges/universities across the country. Then, on Feb. 14, 2018, it happened AGAIN, this time at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. 17 families lost their loved ones that day. And again, our nation mourned, reigniting the debate on gun reform. Every parent had that all-too-familiar-by-now feeling in the pit of their stomach, and the thought, “What’s to keep that from happening in my child’s school, in my city? This is going to keep happening until someone does something drastic!”
Then, YOU happened! You and your courageous, poised, and articulate peers stepped up and DID the drastic. You didn’t wait for the adults, who have failed you time and time again, to get their act together to solve the epidemic of school shootings in America. You demanded, “NEVER AGAIN!” It’s no surprise you’re taking matters into your own capable hands, rapidly organizing yourselves, using your familiar social media to start the #NeverAgain movement, to fight for your lives and your right to go to school without worrying about getting gunned down by a classmate.
I have to ask, “Have you EVER felt safe in school?” How could you, with ‘active shooter drills’ as common as tornado and fire drills? In the weeks since the Parkland tragedy, you have stood in front of TV cameras and large crowds, calling out politicians and standing up to NRA spokespeople with incredible maturity and grace. And in doing so, you have shown the world how truly AWESOME you are! And people are listening, as are major corporations! WAY TO GO!
I’ve had so many people reach out to me — since I’ve been studying and writing about your generation for the past few years — saying “you are so spot on about Gen Z! They are so smart, articulate and impressive!” I hope this doesn’t come across as condescending in any way, but I AM SO PROUD OF YOU!!! I am so proud to be the mother of three Gen Z’s, Sammy, Henry and Gabby Gutierrez. I thank God every day that they’ve never had to experience a school shooting first-hand. And I’m so sorry for the students and survivors of MSD who did, and every parent who has had to endure losing a child in such a senseless way.
THANK YOU, Gen Z, for using your voices to fight for your lives! I look forward to seeing the turnout for your March for our Lives on March 24, in cities across America. And I look forward to the future in your capable hands!
I’ve been saying this all along, and I’ll continue to say it to anyone who’ll listen: your generation will save us all, as long as we don’t blow ourselves up before you get the chance.
With love and respect,
Gen Z Mom (Angie Read)
This post reflects my own personal thoughts and is not associated in any way with my employer.