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Trust and Safety: The Hypothetical Gunman

Joined: 10/30/2011
Posts: 3
I was nine when I heard about the Virginia Tech Massacre. I was at an age where I was old enough to realize that something bad had happened, but too young to realize why. What my mind retained was that a gunman had come into the school and killed a lot of people.
That’s what I remembered during the lock down drills at my elementary school. I would curl up against the back of the door with the rest of my classmates and imagine a lone gunman wandering around the deserted hallways, searching for an unprotected student to strike. I could see him, waiting, watching.
As I grew older my eyes opened slightly. I learned about more incidents like the Virginia Tech Massacre, gunning’s that were closer to home. I still watched for the gunman at both my home and at school.
Eventually I moved to a more happening place. I was accepted into a private school for the ‘financially fortunate’ and my eyes grew wider. I wasn’t stupid. I could see the cameras in the corners of the classrooms; I heard the rumors about the guard who stood near the third entrance. I caught glimpses of our schools security system in the hard faces of the men at the guardhouse.
When I walked I noticed more too. I now saw the ‘security on call’ signs placed strategically near entrances. I stopped admiring the fleur-de-lis adorning the wrought iron gates and instead focused on the mini-cameras and screen pads next to them. No gunman could hide here.
During lock down drills, I thought of the gunman, but it was different. Now, as I slouched against the filing cabinets and joked with my friends, I had difficulty imagining the gunman. I was in a new place, in a new school, and the gunman didn’t belong here. I couldn’t see him getting past the high walls, dodging the guards, and breaking through the auto-locked doors. I couldn’t someone in the school pulling out a gun. How could my school, with its ten step application process and meticulous counselor ever harbor my gunman?
No. My classmates and I were safe. No gunman would ever harm us.
And none ever did.
After all, it wasn’t the gunman who made the 13-year-old girl 15 seconds late to her bus stop. He wasn’t the one who caused everyone on Bus 7 to stagger out to the school traumatized, having watched a friend get run over twice as she ran after the bus.
Nor was he the one who caused the 17-year-old boy to make a mistake during an experiment. The gunman wasn’t even present as the lab fire started, giving the boy electrical burns that would slowly kill him.
He didn’t pull the top half of the seatbelt off of the 18-year-old girl’s shoulder. She did that herself because it was late, and she was tired.
My eyes are as open as they have ever been, and there is no gunman in sight- he is held at bay by the cold guards and quietly beeping cameras. I trust in them.
But the gunman was never a threat. Not to us.
Not to them.
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Comment by mcoly618

Joined: 5/2/2009
Posts: 472
Hi, I'm the PR Coordinator for Stage of Life. I'm leaving you this comment to let you know that your essay for our Trust and Safety writing contest was one of the finalists. Congratulations!

Here's the link to the contest summary page. We'll be formally announcing the winner soon.

Feel free to share this news with your friends and family. To be named an essay finalists in our national writing competition is a big deal. Our previous winners have been talked about on and other media outlets.

Congrats again. We look forward to seeing more of your essays/writing on Thanks for helping us in our mission of creating the world's largest pool of cross-generational stories.
Posted: Thursday, November 3, 2011 2:53:34 PM
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