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We need to do better

Cover of Children Under Fire: An Am
A review of Children Under Fire: An American Crisis by John Woodrow Cox

John Woodrow Cox's powerful book examines the countless victims of gun violence that are not counted as victims - the classmates, siblings, children, parents, teachers, friends, grand parents , and so on and so on. The book focuses on a 2016 shooting in South Carolina that killed 6-year-old Jacob Hall and the effects on his best friend Ava who was so traumatized that she developed severe PTSD. We get an intimate portrait of how Ava and her family are affected every single day by the PTSD.

I was about one third of the way through the book when I started getting text messages from my son.  His school was on lock down after reports of a a student having a gun on campus. Thankfully, nothing "bad" happened that day. But as I went to my car that evening, in the snow on the trunk of my car were two handprints - I had taken my son to hockey practice that morning and those hand prints were his from when he closed the trunk after getting his hockey gear out. I sat in my car and cried - so thankful that those two hand prints were not the last I had of my son. All those students at my son's school experienced some degree of trauma as they hid under their desks that day. All the teachers and school staff suffered trauma as they worried about how they could keep their students safe and would they get home to their families that night. All the parents and families suffered as we waited to learn if our children were safe. And yet all this collective trauma and anxiety don't seem to matter. These are kids that have grown up with active shooter drills their entire lives.

I couldn't go back to reading Children Under Fire for several weeks. It is not an easy book to read. It is devastating. It is powerful. I think it should be required reading for every person in power who should be working to make our schools, our homes, our neighborhoods and our world a safe place for children and  all people. We need to do better.

Feb 21, 2022