“We want people to remember our faces… because we don’t want anyone else to go through what we’ve gone through. Remember the pain that’s in our faces when we have to talk about our daughter no longer being here. We want you to remember there are things you can do instead of being in this position that we are in.”
These words were uttered in an emotional video for Save the Children by Alissa Parker, mom of 6-year-old Emilie, one of 20 children who were killed in Sandy Hook elementary on 12/14 last year. With a face full of the pain and grief that’s just unimaginable to any parent, Alissa urges all of us to remember her and her husband Robbie’s face so we never have to go through what they are going through.
And that struck the deepest nerve with me.
We no longer live in times when we can have the luxury of thinking “that will never happen to me.” One year after Sandy Hook, there have been 27 more shootings in schools across the United States. 27. It could happen to me. It could happen to you. But Sandy Hook parents like Alissa and Robbie want us to know it doesn’t have to happen to us, or at the very least we don’t need to live a life of regret, if we only take action and speak up. And ultimately, just follow our gut feeling when we know something in our child’s school or care environment doesn’t feel safe.
“Looking back at what I felt and thought and never acted upon, I want to make sure I take our story and we can share that message with people,” urges Alissa on the Save the Children video aimed at teaching parents how to protect children before disaster of any type strikes. “Don’t just think about it and not say anything.”
It’s as if she were talking to me. I’m ashamed to admit that every single school day during the last year since Sandy Hook, I’ve walked into my daughter’s elementary and have been completely aware of how much safer it could be. But, I’ve never said a word because I figured someone would. I’ve never spoken up because I didn’t want to be that parent. I silently observed because I trust the district and figured that they are on top of things when it comes to protecting our children. But the reality is that I don’t really know because I haven’t spoken up, nor have I gotten directly involved in our school’s safety.
Admittedly, at this very moment I’m not actually 100% sure of what our disaster response plan is without having to get up and look for the Parent’s Handbook we were given at the beginning of the year. Yes, I’m ashamed to admit it, but I will assume that I’m not alone. Plus, admitting it is the first step toward taking real action.
On the same video, Robbie Parker makes a strong call-to-action to all parents and I’m taking it very seriously:
“It goes a lot further than just dropping your kids off at school on time. They (parents) need to be aware of what the plans are in case there were an emergency. They need to be more involved in asking their principals and going to their districts and understanding what their role is in all these different scenarios. If a tornado hits or there’s an intruder, as a parent, what is your role when that thing happens so you know how to respond appropriately?”
To help guide us in preparing a plan to respond appropriately when any type of disaster strikes, Save the Children has put together a few checklists at Get Ready Get Safe. For her part, Alissa is on a mission to securing schools and has co-founded Safe and Sound, a community site that offers simple tips and toolkits for school communities to unite around security.
I don’t intend to live a life based in fear for what could happen, but I also can’t ignore the power that being aware, speaking up and being prepared can bring to any situation.
Alissa and Robbie, I won’t forget your faces. Thank you!