A Devastating Déjà Vu

#EnoughIsEnough.  #NeverAgain.  #NeverForget.

And yet we do.

The endless barrage of preventable mass shooting tragedies now borders on the inevitable.  As The Colorado Independent reported, our own children no longer believe it’s a matter of if, but when.

And just as inevitable are the public expressions of “thoughts and prayers” disseminated in the aftermath like a broken record.  But as Temple Emanuel’s Rabbi Black so eloquently stated in a 2018 opening prayer at the Colorado State Legislature, action is ultimately required.

At Rose Community Foundation, we have spent decades investing in public education – funding strategies to close the achievement gap, efforts to grow and diversify the teacher pipeline, advocating for increased school funding, and providing access to innovative education models.  All of these efforts assume that the biggest challenges our schools face are in the realms of policy and resources.  All of these efforts assume that our children and teachers will go home to their families each and every afternoon.

We now know that is not true.

To be honest, we have known that is not true for the two decades since Columbine became a household name.  And we are reminded that is not true every day we learn of another shooting at another school, another university, another house of worship, another workplace or another entertainment venue.  The names and places are now too numerous to recite them all.

And yet we carry their psychic scars with us.  We feel them when we drop off our children off at school, desperately trying to ignore the knots in our stomach and wondering if our children blame us for placing them into potentially dangerous and uncertain environments.

Mark Sass – a teacher and director of Teach Plus Colorado, a Rose Community Foundation grantee, tweeted this poignant remark: “Again. 200 times since 1999 that we have a school shooting.  Again I reassure my students that there is no safer place to be than in a school.  At what point do they stop believing me?”

One of Rose Community Foundation’s board members, Kathy Neustadt, has now covered five mass shootings in Colorado as a freelance producer for ABC News.  The day after the May 7, 2019, shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch, she shared the following: “For the third time I was assigned to go to the facility where students (or theater patrons) were reunited with their parents.  Sadly, for the third time a parent has asked me for information, said they were trying to reach their child with no answer – or in yesterday’s case – used my phone to contact hospitals to find their child. In each case, their child was killed. My heart is heavy.”

We should have had enough after Columbine.  We should have had enough after Newtown.  We should have had enough after Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub. We should have had enough after Las Vegas.  We should have had enough after Parkland.  We should have had enough after Pittsburgh.  And we should have had enough after every mass shooting in between.

We have a duty to bear witness, so we cannot let ourselves off the hook in acknowledging that – for reasons we cannot yet explain – an exceedingly large number of these preventable tragedies have happened in our beloved state of Colorado:  Columbine High School in Littleton.  Platte Canyon High School in Bailey. Youth With a Mission Training Center in Arvada.  New Life Church in Colorado Springs.  Deer Creek Middle School in Littleton.  Century 16 movie theater in Aurora.  Arapahoe High School in Centennial.  Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood.  Thornton Wal-Mart.  Region-wide school closures due to imminent threat.  STEM School Highlands Ranch.

And as I type this list – a mere one day after its latest addition – another Denver high school has spent the day in lockout due to a possible threat.

It just so happens that May is National Mental Health Month.  Mental health undeniably needs to be a year-round issue.  More often than not, mental health issues – combined with easy access to guns – are at the root of these preventable tragedies.  At Rose Community Foundation, we have long been investing in organizations working on the front-lines of childhood mental health issues to improve early interventions and access, but how can any of us scale these efforts to cope with the tremendous toxic stress we are inflicting on a generation of students growing up with active shooter drills and the perception of constant mortal danger?

We can hug our children tighter.  We can promise to remember the victims and heroes.  We can thank our teachers and first responders.  We can think and we can pray.  And we can continue to invest in mental health.  But there are systemic issues at play that have been swept under the rug for far too long and at far too high a cost.

How can any of us look our children in the eye without saying “enough is truly enough” and actually acting upon it?  What can each of us do – as funders, as donors, as voters, as advocates, as elected officials, as responsible gun owners, as medical professionals, as educators, as a society – to stop this horrific trend once and for all?  It is not enough to keep uniting in grief; it is long past time to unite in action.

If you are interested in contributing financially to those impacted by this shooting, below are resources to help. We will continue to update this post with other ways to support the victims. 

  • If you are interested in supporting STEM School Highlands Ranch’s students, educators, and families, click here to donate to Colorado Succeeds’ support fund.
  • Douglas County School District set up a site to support impacted students here.
  • Wells Fargo has established a”Kendrick Castillo Memorial Fund,” donations to which can be made at any branch. 
  • The Colorado Healing Fund was created in December by former state attorney general Cynthia Coffman and former Columbine high school principal Frank DeAngelis to help victims of mass tragedy. The state provided $1 million in seed money to support victims and their families. The public can donate online by visiting ColoradoHealingFund.org. Checks and in-person donations will be accepted at Colorado-based First Bank locations. The fund will work with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and local victim’s assistance programs to determine how to use the money.
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