I was a baby teacher in 1999, in the inner-city of Chicago, when the first school shooting took place. A number of my friends called me and worried about me. Given where I was living, they thought my school on the Near West Side of Chicago was more at risk. The thought of a school shooting never crossed my mind. Perhaps I was naive or perhaps because every single student in that school lived at or below the poverty line, this never entered into my thinking.
On the same day that Our Son Patrick Michael Ricca was born, August 24, 2006, another school shooting happened in Essex, VT. Even though school was not in session, lives were lost. I was not living in Vermont at the time, but it registered for me since I was married to a native Vermonter.
On December 14, 2012, the tragedy of Sandy Hook occurred and twenty-six people lost their lives. That was my second year in Montpelier Public Schools as Superintendent and was off campus that day, driving with My Family. As the news reports started, my phone began to ring. I was overwhelmed with what was happening. Our Sons were 4 and 6 at the time, and I looked over my shoulder to see them comfortably strapped into their car seats in our mini-van, blissfully unaware of what was happening in Connecticut.
On January 16, 2018, Nathan Giffin lost his life on grounds of Montpelier High School. I was in the unified command center with first responders. I held my breath when I heard over the radio "shots fired" and recognized the voice was that of our School Resource Officer, Corporal Matthew Knisley. I didn't realize I was holding my breath until I exhaled when I finally heard his voice again over the radio several long moments later.
This past Wednesday, seventeen students lost their lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. I had followed the news all day, sickened again by the loss of innocent life. When putting Patrick to bed that night (Our Son born the same day as the Essex shooting) he said to me, "I know what happened today Daddy." Unsure of what he meant, I responded "What do you mean Love?" His response, "We were at McGillicuddy's watching TV and it wasn't the news. I was just reading the crawl at the bottom of the screen. (long pause) That kinda thing isn't going to happen to us, right?"
Just in this post alone I have noted five school shootings and their impact on my life. That is five too many. None of the facts of these school shootings are in dispute.
Vermont's Governor Phil Scott noted in this article on VT Digger that "it is time for 'an honest and open and fact-based discussion about access to guns by those who shouldn't have them.' " We must take action. We simply must.
There are just too many guns in our country, and essentially unfettered access to them. As someone who is legally obligated to keep Montpelier's children safe, and speaking for my colleague Elaine Pinckney, who is legally obligated to keep my own children safe, I am overwhelmed by the urgency of this.
In Vermont, children are compelled to come to school from the ages of 6 - 16. We must do more to ensure their safety. We must do more, period.
I have had enough. I hope you have too.