Students and survivors are beginning the long journey of processing their grief and anger in the aftermath of the horrific shooting that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last Wednesday in Parkland, Florida. Illinois librarian Heather Booth offered her experience dealing with a highly-publicized tragedy around the same age. In 1995, Booth lost seven classmates in the infamous Fox River Grove train-bus collision, a crash that continues to be one of the worst of its kind in American history.
I have a thing to say about growing up after tragedy. When I was a senior in high school, 7 of my classmates were killed & 24 injured. It was an awful day full of fear, confusion, & pain. Press swarmed. News helicopters hovered overhead all day filming footage of the carnage. 1/— Heather Booth (@boothheather) February 16, 2018
People said the things that are being said now. “I put him on the bus and sent him to school. He was supposed to be safe.” Classrooms were rearranged so the empty desks weren’t a constant reminder. 3/— Heather Booth (@boothheather) February 16, 2018
More time passed. I did the memorial layout in the yearbook. By then, our shock and raw pain had changed to anger and questioning. Why did this happen? What went wrong? Whose fault is it? Investigations, we learned, were ongoing. 5/— Heather Booth (@boothheather) February 16, 2018
Within two years of the accident, collisions of a similar nature had dropped by almost a quarter, beginning an overall downward trend that continues today.
As Booth points out, the 1995 collision led to numerous safety changes and more attentive policies.
And as kids, here’s what this meant: we saw something awful happen, then we saw adults support us, then we saw them make change happen to keep that awful thing from ever happening again. Now, I’m an adult who grew up having seen adults fix things. 9/— Heather Booth (@boothheather) February 16, 2018
What kind of lifelong scars do we inflict on youth when the adults who are there to protect them don’t force change in the wake of preventable tragedy? What kind of foundation do we lay when their world breaks and no one fixes it? 11/— Heather Booth (@boothheather) February 16, 2018
Adults - there are so many of us whose school days were rocked by tragedy. Remember how it felt? We can do better.— Heather Booth (@boothheather) February 16, 2018
As Twitter users began to reach out to Booth, it became clear that adults' reactions to tragedies their children experience play a huge part in easing or exacerbating emotional trauma and the navigation of it.
Ignoring tragedies is not helpful for anyone.
I didn't talk to anyone about Columbine because the adults made it very clear that the only reason you'd not have moved on from Columbine is because you were thinking of repeating it. The first time I talked about Columbine with an adult was 3 years ago-I got diagnosed with PTSD.— Megan Wildhood (@mnrwildhood) February 17, 2018
I wish as adults we had done better. Our society was never the same. We have let down our children for 19 years. It was somehow inescapable. My older son worked as a lifeguard at Platte Canyon. Younger son for the Theater, though he was at the Belmar location. I'm so very sorry.— Amy Matheus (@pixipicparties) February 17, 2018
Thank you for this perspective. As an educator, I often think that what my students see me work towards and for holds some meaning for them and I want them to know I won’t leave them in the midst of turmoil.— The Funky Educator (@MrKinetik) February 17, 2018
As a certified trauma assessor and license counselor, you know as well as I do, that the scars are life long. They take a great amount of effort, time, $ to heal. There is no specific med to cure trauma. Life can be fulfilling after a long recovery, but it impacts everything— Mary Warren (@MaryLynWarren22) February 17, 2018
Ultimately, Booth continued to challenge her followers to show the students and children of this nation that we will be the adults they need.
And adults need to figure out how to fix things.
If you want to support youth, but don't know where to start, look at the @SearchInstitute's 40 Assets matrix. Think about what skills and talents you have, and figure out how they fit into the Assets. You can make a difference. https://t.co/AbegazMKLs— Heather Booth (@boothheather) February 17, 2018