Kenneth Reade: A father’s reaction to lockdown at JFK

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Friday, June 08, 2018
A father’s reaction to lockdown at middle school

For more than two agonizing hours on June 7, my 14-year old daughter cowered in a locked-down room (in pitch-black darkness) in her school and was convinced she was going to be violently shot to death at any moment (“Man with gun at JFK causes lockdown,” June 8).

It didn’t happen, thankfully. This time. But when a young male brought two air rifles — which to most 14-year-olds, teachers and police dispatchers fielding 911 calls might as well be ArmaLite-15s — to the schoolyard and scattered screaming and panicked children and teachers in all directions, violent death didn’t seem to be outside the realm of possibility at JFK Middle School for those two hours.

Yes, that JFK Middle School. Here in Florence, Massachusetts. Our little town, where these kind of things don’t happen (as I have repeatedly lied to both of my young daughters for the past several years).

Like most people in our little town, and like most people in every other little, medium and large town across this country, we try to do the right thing at home, at work, in the community, and politically, regardless of our political stripes.

We pay taxes, we make our kids’ lunches, we try to find time for dates with our partners, we do an admirable job at work, we watch sports, we go to movies and plenty of people are still committed to going to church on their Sabbath (but I personally cannot stand it when people keep saying “thoughts and prayers” after our frequent shootings these days).

But here’s the news flash if you didn’t already know: The United States of America, circa 2018, seems to be fundamentally, profoundly and dangerously close to being irreparably beyond hope at this moment in history.

History. Don’t get me started. Yes, I realize this is not the Black Death, King Philip’s War, the Greenfield massacre, or 74 years ago to the beaches of Normandy, 50 years ago since MLK and RFK died their own violent gunshot deaths.

Violence, to a large degree, has always been in the American DNA. It’s a big country and an even larger frontier mentality. But why do we continue to be awash in such violence? Such attempted violence? Simulated and virtual violence? Big screen cinema violence?

There are over 300 million firearms in our United (united?) States of America. Repeat that a couple of times and it starts to become surreal. (Disclaimer: I support the Second Amendment and responsible gun ownership, so spare me the trolls).

My stream of rambling consciousness is not intended to be pro-gun vs. anti-gun, Red State vs. Blue State, Fox news vs. MSNBC news, bicoastal vs. flyover country, white vs. black, Mars vs. Earthling, or any other X vs. Y debate.

In fact, I’m not even sure debate is something that is even practiced or admired in the United States anymore. I just simply can’t realize, intellectualize, rationalize, fathom, or otherwise understand how my daughter faced her scenario of a violent gun death on Thursday in her school, among her friends and her adored and devoted teachers.

I wish I had a clincher of a final concluding paragraph here … a clever closing argument or final statement. A profound, motivational or inspirational call for action for a more perfect union in this country. But I don’t. Do you? Does anyone?

Besides hugs and telling her I love her over and over again, I just don’t know what I can offer my still terrified, trembling 14-year-old daughter.

Kenneth Reade