With the heart-wrenching images from Oxford, Mich., still fresh in their minds, we asked area high school students: What goes through your mind when you hear about the latest tragic school shooting or incident of gun violence?
CAMILLE CLIFTON, Oakland junior
“As you hear more and more of these stories about shootings in different states and different schools, it becomes a lot. You think: ‘What do I have to do if it happens here?’ or ‘What could have been done?’
“You realize that the only thing stopping someone from doing the exact same thing in your school is a metal door.
“I mean, we do drills in order to prepare for school shootings. We have time out of our school day to make sure we know what to do if someone comes into our school with a gun and decides to do the same things Ethan Crumbley did (in Oxford).
“How awful is that? As teenagers, we have to worry that someone we know, or even care about, would do something that terrible. There is always a constant worry that it will happen to me or my sister or my friends. I hate that we have to feel like we are the lucky ones, that we get to carry on and go to school after something like the Michigan shooting.
“I just wish that people protected their kids as much as they protect their right to bear arms. I wish that people were as mad and angry as me.
“It is hard to see people my age dying and I can’t do anything about it. I’m not old enough to vote or for my voice to matter. I am stuck.
“What can I do? I feel helpless.”
JAVIAE JOHNSON, Urbana freshman
“I feel sad and my heart gets heavy. I get very emotional when thinking about it. I feel bad for the students that were there, but I also feel fortunate that it didn’t happen to me and everyone here at UHS.
“I don’t want to think about something like that happening here because I don’t want to think negative and speak it up here. I feel safe at Urbana because our teachers and staff help us feel safe because they are taking all precautions to make sure we are safe.
“If anything does happen, we have our SRO, Officer Burnett, who helps keep us safe. He is building relationships with kids to help us understand that he will protect us and have our back.”
ROWAN TRILLING-HANSEN, Uni senior
“It is shocking how unsurprised I was to see this question. It is shocking how unsurprised I was to hear this news.
“People who aren’t students ask me this question a lot. Adults are both horrified and fascinated by student opinions about school shootings. When I tell adults about Code Red drills or that time the alarm accidentally went off during PE class and we all hid in the locker room because we thought it was real, they’re deeply upset.
“Adults are surprised by how normal this is for us. To be honest, I am surprised by how normal this is for us.
“When I hear news like this, of course it makes me sad. I’m shaken and appalled at what students experience in the places that are meant to keep them safe. But I also feel numb when I hear the names of a new batch of children who were killed, as the numbers climb and climb in the days following any given shooting as people who survived the day itself die in the hospital.
“I feel numb when I go to school the next day and go through my classes, like those students were supposed to.
“A lot of people think we constantly fear being next, and I’m sure that there are some people that do, but I just cannot sustain that feeling. It is not realistic to spend all your time thinking about being in a school shooting, so mostly we don’t.
“The truth is, I feel too little, I move on too soon and I forget too quickly. I think we all do. I think we all have to, or we’ll still be in the middle of mourning when the next one comes around.
“As interested as adults seem to be in this question, I often wonder where that fascination goes when it comes to young people’s suggestions about what would keep us safest.”
LAUREN HARPER, St. Joseph-Ogden senior
“My heart breaks. It weeps and breaks for these poor families. And for these kids whose lives have been cut tragically short. How a 15-year-old boy can cause so much pain astounds me. I cannot even begin to comprehend the pain, emotion and loss.
“I wonder, what makes these students so different from me? The victims were the same age as me. They went to high school just like me. They enjoyed music, games, friendships and parties ... just like me.
“But these students will never get to do or experience any of that again. They won’t make any more plans with their friends. They won’t go to senior prom or even graduate.
“They will never change the world.
“And that is what makes me sob the most.
“I pray for the people of Oxford. I pray for the parents that will never get to see their son or daughter again. I pray for the person who will never know their soulmate or who is already mourning their passing. I pray for the brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, grandparents, friends, teachers, classmates, teammates and mentors.
“I pray that Madisyn Baldwin, Tate Myre, Hana St. Juliana and Justin Shilling find peace, for they are in a higher, more perfect and beautiful place that knows no pain. I believe that, truly.
“I pray for the students all over the country, including myself, who are scared.
“I pray for Ethan Crumbley. I pray for his parents.
“I pray for Oxford. I pray that they are shown how to heal.
“I pray that we all are."
ALLIE MORRIS, Oakwood junior
“Unfortunately, I think school shootings are something my generation have sort of gone numb to. It has become a regular headline that some people are not aware of until days later.
“This most recent one was so tragic, and then the next day we carried on with our lives. Personally, I think about how I would feel if those were my best friends, my teammates or even my sister, who is a teacher.
“These situations are devastating, and it is time for something to be done. Our nation’s leaders should take mental health more seriously and advocate for funds for schools to deal with it appropriately, or it will continue to make headlines.
“We should not normalize school shootings, because many people are struggling, and with each tragedy the list will continue to grow.”
CLARA RUDOLPH, Monticello senior
“It’s never easy to hear about things like this. Emotions like fear, sorrow and raw heartache are intertwined in the aftermath of such a horrendous act.
“But mostly, confusion reigns. I think most of us personalize these stories automatically, wondering what we would have done or how we would have felt if something so terrible happened at our school. But it’s something we can’t really wrap our heads around, because an evil like that is nearly impossible to understand.
“That’s what makes it so scary — the fact that we can’t comprehend it. More than anything else, my heart goes out to all of the students and families affected, because even when the pain is no longer making headlines, it will still linger.”
REGAN BLANTON, Villa Grove senior
“The ramifications of the actions committed by these cretinous individuals are astounding. These actions cause lasting impacts on the victims first-hand but as well as the family, friends and community.
“As an individual, it brings me great sadness to see these shootings happen. I have great hope to see further measures implemented to help prevent future students from having to go through such atrocious experiences, and that all individuals who have suffered through these experiences are given resources to cope with the trauma.”
BREANN ARD, Oakland junior
“I felt sadness for the students and teachers, sadness for the families and also sadness for the boy that committed this crime.
“I feel sadness for him because he felt so troubled that the only way to fulfill his life was to take the lives of others.
“I am terrified to think that this could’ve happened to my school, just like it could happen — and has happened — to other schools.”
KEDZIE GRIFFIN, Danville senior
“When I hear about school shootings, like the one that just happened in Oxford, Michigan, I wonder about the victims. I often wonder about the survivor’s guilt that the other students might feel, whether they were at the school that day or not.
“I hope that the students who weren’t at school that day can forgive themselves for missing.
“I feel for each student that was there who had to experience horrific things. I also feel for the parents who had to get an ‘I love you’ text from their child.
“The teachers also deserve to be recognized for taking charge and trying to take care of their students.
“I hope that their community can come together and grow from this tragedy. I have talked with other students at Danville High School about how thankful we are for the community we live in and some of the safety precautions our school is taking.”
LILLIAN PLOENSE, Heritage senior
“When I first found out about the Michigan shooting, it was on my Instagram page that morning. I think the first thing I said to someone in my family about it is how high school students never think it will happen to their school, until it does.
“As high school students, we have to think about our fellow classmates and how their home life is, and just life in general outside of school. School should be a safe place to be yourself, not somewhere you have to hope and pray you make it home at the end of the day.
“I pray that students in our schools get the help they need if desired. Always treat others with respect and kindness; you never know how much that could mean to someone.”
WILL TERRY, COLE MAXWELL and GAGE LANGE, Westville seniors
“When we hear about a school shooting that has happened, it makes our hearts sink. We as classmates can never imagine this happening to our school or community, but most communities don’t see it happening to their school.
“Per Education Week, there have been 23 school shootings since August 1st. This makes us stop and think about what we can do to stop school shootings.
“We think teachers with the right qualifications should be able to have their firearms with them in school, as another way to protect their students and themselves.
“We think it is very important for students to be put in situations with an intruder as a practice to show the students what could happen in a real-life scenario.
“We also think that these intruder drills should be practiced at least every quarter because of the rising amounts of school shootings that have been happening. If we practice multiple times, we can hopefully learn multiple different strategies to keep the intruder out until the police show up.
“School shootings are a very serious problem that have been on the rise and if we as schools can take the right precautions, we can hopefully limit the lives that are lost.”