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Teachers Shouldn't Have to Die Heroes



American University


Teachers Shouldn't Have to Die Heroes

For the next mass shooting heroes.

Nikki Barraza


As bullets rip through the air, students run into classrooms, closets, hide under desks, with nothing to protect them from the warzone we are ok with as a country. Snapchat videos from Florida show the bodies they ran past; you can hear the screams of fear as an entire school of children wondered if it would be their last day.

The stories of the teachers in every tragedy, ushering kids into closets, telling their students possibly for the last time that they are loved, selflessly throwing their bodies in front of children as a mad man takes their lives -- those get me. They are the heroes, but they shouldn’t have to be.

My mom is a high school teacher. She spends her weekends grading papers, her extra money buying supplies for her underfunded classroom, her time worrying if she planned a good lesson, wondering how she can make it more exciting, relevant. She cares for her students so much, celebrates their success, is a shoulder to lean on for their failures, and a constant source of support. She tells you "you can" when everything else in the world is telling you "you can’t". She doesn’t care where you come from, she doesn’t care about what stopped you in your past, only that you have all the tools to have the future you deserve.

For this my mom is my hero. But every school shooting I wonder when it might be that my mom is going to be remembered as a hero for dying while protecting her students. When will the bullets hit her as she hides terrified kids in her classroom? When will it be her bleeding out on the floor of San Pedro High School? I wonder when it will be me staring at my phone waiting for her to text me that she is ok, but it never coming as she lays down her life for her students.
I don’t want her to. Selfish that I want my mother here with me, that even though she is 35 years the senior of her students I think that she has just as much life to live. I don’t want to be standing in front of a camera fighting back the tears as I tell the country how much she cared about her students. I don’t want to tell them about helping set up her classrooms in the summer, how even though I moved across the country we talk everyday, that I’ve thought about becoming a teacher because of her, that she had an “I love you” tattoo and I have the other half, “to the moon and back,” how that tattoo is now incomplete because somehow your 2nd amendment right is more paramount than my mothers right to life.

No kid, no teacher, no coach, no one deserves to die a preventable death. No one deserves to have their child taken from them, but those families of the teachers also don’t deserve to have them taken away, heroically or not. Teachers are heroes everyday for all the selfless things they do for the students across this country, but they shouldn’t have to die war heroes. Last time I checked, guardian angel wasn’t in my mom’s job description.

I love the story of how my mom finally decided that teaching was the right career choice for her. She had gone straight after undergrad to get her teaching degree and was working in a bar in LAX, wondering if she had made the right choice or rushed into any option. After helping a young boy learn to read he hugged her and whispered "Thank you." She laughs and says it was the moment she was sold.

I wonder if she still thinks about that moment between active shooter drills and conversations with her students about where to hide. Will she think about that moment as they listen to round after round being fired? Will she see that moment as the door shakes from being kicked in? Or will she think about my brother and I planning the funeral for the next school shooting hero.

Call Congress. March. Vote. Stay angry because we have work to do.

Tweet at Congress:
March for Life: March 24th
School Walkout: April 20th