I’ve moved, which means I’ve started a new adventure. Actually, I haven’t started a new adventure. For the first time ever, I’ve returned to an old adventure. Which, since I’ve never done it before, is new. The little school that I worked at the year prior to moving to Guyana has hired me back on as a staff member and so, I have relocated to East Saint Louis for the duration of the school year.
The classroom I have inherited is the room that was vandalized at the beginning of the school year. All of the windows have been smashed out of it and there are wooden boards holding the diving temperatures out for now. After much fundraising and many kind donations, progress is underway to get the windows replaced, but the work isn’t expected to be done until at least spring break of this year. It’s a little frustrating teaching in a classroom with no windows. Obviously no light can get in, but the air flow is messed up too. The room is far too warm without the windows regulating the heat in the room. The air conditioner has to be running in order to keep the room from feeling like a sauna. Air conditioning in December is wasteful, but the amount of wastefulness is small compared to the other trauma created from the vandalism.
For the entire school year so far, the science room has been boarded up and classes have continued as normal. But everyday is a reminder to the students and faculty of the school that this attack happened, that their school was attacked for one reason or another. The boarded up windows represent a lack of security, in multiple ways. Another way of looking at it though, is that even immediately following the attack, classes continued, meaning not a single day of education was missed out on because of someone’s hate-fueled heart. The students focused on forgiving those who hurt their school and prayed for them following the attack.
Last week, a demonstration was done for the students, the community, and a number of television stations, showing us what the new windows we have been fundraising for will be like. Since the building was built in the 1950’s, these windows will obviously be a big step up. They are more energy efficient, are easy to open and close and, most importantly, they are shatter proof.
The demonstration took all of two minutes. The company was simply demonstrating how sturdy the windows are. As shown in the photo above, the man was able to strike the window repeatedly with a bat and the window didn’t crack. He then tossed a baseball at the window. Again, nothing happened. I found his presentation less than convincing. If someone were looking to break into the school again, they wouldn’t be hitting the windows with a plastic bat. And so, in front of the students and camera crews alike, I shouted out the question that needed to be asked. “Is there a reason you’re hitting the window with a plastic bat and not a metal one?” The man laughed off the question, referencing all of the cameras that were watching. And then, from my left side, one of the sixth graders chimed in and asked the question that summed up the whole event: “Are they bullet proof?”
“No,” the man responded quickly.
A silence seemed to fall over the group. A teacher later whispered to me about how his question speaks volumes about the area that we’re living in. It’s a fair question for a child to ask when everyday they’re reminded by the wooden boards holding their school together that this place that is suppose to act as an oasis for them isn’t invincible, it isn’t bulletproof.
I understand that the world isn’t perfect. Believe me, I’ve seen and heard my fair share of horror stories over the last three years, but I can’t help but feel both sadness and anger about the situation. When did we get to the point where we send our kids to school like we send young men and women to war? What do we have to tell ourselves before we go to sleep each night to justify going about our lives in the same manner, changing nothing?
We wouldn’t need bulletproof windows if we didn’t have bullets.