This attack hit close to home. Literally. Bennett lives a few blocks from the University of Virginia campus, where on Sunday night a student and former football player allegedly shot to death three current football players and wounded two students, one of them critically.
As Bennett faced her children, the alleged shooter remained at large. Schools in Charlottesville and Albemarle County had closed for the day as a cautionary measure. Bennett negotiated the prickly dilemma of how much information to give her daughters, ages nine and 14.
She spoke to her older daughter first. The child had dealt with eight lockdowns and active shooter pranks that sent police rushing to her school. During one prank, she got a text with a screen shot from the school office that read “Active Shooter.”
People are also reading…
“Every single day I think, is this the day my kids don’t come home from school?” Bennett said. “There aren’t words to describe how that feels. I can’t imagine what the parents of those football players are going through.”
Survivors of those who died at UVa must reckon with the knowledge that someone murdered their loved ones not because their loved ones put themselves at risk or because they got caught in a social situation where things spun out of control. D’Sean Perry, Lavel Davis, Jr. and Devin Chandler were shot on a bus after they returned with other students from a field trip to see a play in Washington D.C.
Parents of the wounded, whose names the university kept private, are left to wonder why or if their loved ones were even targeted.
Bennett decided to tell her older daughter the details of what happened at UVa. She explained that the shooting was why K-12 schools closed in Albemarle County and Charlottesville. She assured the 14-year-old that the family would be safe if they stayed inside the house.
Her older daughter seemed to take the news in stride, only not in a way that left Bennett comfortable. Her husband is a neuroscientist, and once more, Bennett worried whether the frequency of U.S. mass shootings would affect her teenager’s brain development.
Accepting gun violence or the threat of gun violence as something normal or at best unavoidable was absolutely the wrong solution.
Yet what do you say about a country that as of Monday has had 599 mass shootings this year, according to Gun Violence Archive, a group that says it collects data “from over 7,500 law enforcement, media, government and commercial sources daily.”
When Bennett’s nine-year-old emerged from her bedroom, Bennett tried to spare the youngster gory details. She told her vaguely that schools closed because something bad had happened.
But as Bennett noted, “Kids are now primed for this.”
The priming came from the slaughter of innocent children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. and Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, among others. Such is America’s descent into gun-generated gore that many, if not most, American elementary students undergo active shooter drills in class.
So Bennett’s truncated explanation prompted another question.
“Did someone get hurt?” her nine-year-old asked.
“Someone got shot,” her mom answered. “So we’re going to stay inside and be safe.”
“We should turn off all our lights,” the little girl replied. “That’s what we do at school.”
Bennett told her daughter that leaving the lights on in the house was not going to attract the bad guy.
But in a nation where thousands of politicians happily let hundreds of millions of firearms float indiscriminately, Christa Bennett could not yet offer the reassurance kids coping with mass shootings deserve.
“Do you think this will stop people from getting guns?” Bennett’s nine-year-old asked of the UVa tragedy.
“No,” her mother answered sadly, but honestly. “I don’t think so.”