One semester I had a mentally disturbed student in my class. Aggressive, intimidating and rude. The other students told me they were afraid as well so I decided to go to the Dean.
And I was completely blown off.
I taught at a satellite campus that was an office building by day and I was usually the last one to leave the building at 10:00 at night. After I dropped off my projector in an empty, dark office I walked down a series of empty, dark hallways out to my lone car in an empty, dark parking lot. I asked the Dean if, at the very least, he would consider hiring a security guard to be on the premises for a couple of hours at night.
He said no.
So I quit.
F that s.
I had recently gotten married and had spent the last ten months starving the shit out of myself to look fabulous in my wedding dress and I wasn't about to go down now.
For some reason Saturday's tragedy in Arizona is hitting me very hard. I can't stop thinking about it. I read a series of emails written by Jared Loughner's classmate that said she sat next to the door with her purse in her lap because she thought he was the kind of person who might one day come in with a gun and unleash on the class. Apparently the teacher had tried to have him removed but the administration blew him off.
This tragedy has disturbed me more than Columbine. More than a massacre that happened less than two miles away from my house in 2008.
I laid awake in bed last night for most of the night thinking about the 9-year-old girl who will never get to experience butterflies in her stomach as she sits on the couch waiting for her date to pick her up. I thought about her mother who will never get to tell her daughter to get off the couch and wipe that crap off her face before her date picks her up.
I thought about the 76-year-old man, his life a winding path paved with stories of heartache and triumph (as we all have) that led him to that sidewalk on that day at that time, only to have his story end in an instant. I thought about all the people he had in his life and what he never got to tell them.
But most of all I thought about Jared Loughner's parents. They now have to live every second of every minute of every hour of every day with the knowledge that they created a monster capable of taking innocent human lives. And that to me is the worst hell imaginable.
And thinking about that is when it occurred to me - my kids. Having kids makes me see the world through a completely different lens.
I don't want them scared to go to school. I don't want them looking over their shoulders as they walk through the mall. I don't want them wondering if the guy sitting next to them on the plane got through security with a bomb strapped to his boot.
And I don't know what to do about it. You can't arrest someone on suspicion of crazy. You can't even prohibit them from walking into a Sportsman's Warehouse and buying a semi-automatic weapon in the same amount of time it takes to buy a loaf of bread from the grocery store.
And as long as that's possible then things like what happened on Saturday are possible.
All I know is that from now on I'm sitting by the door with my purse in my hand.
And I'm telling my kids to do the same.