- Ryan Mo ’20
Saturday, October 27, 10:18 PM. In what was the twilight of an enjoyable night with a few friends at Great America’s annual Halloween Haunt, I stood in line for our planned penultimate ride of the night and posed for a picture. Whereupon it began, with the heavy footsteps and yelling of panicked voices, followed by a wall of fleeing patrons. My friends and I were confused until we heard what they were yelling: “shooter” “there’s a shooter” “run”. We listened, and we ran. Through the mayhem, I remember park-goers surging through the gates of the park’s entrance, and when those became too backed up by the mob, some began jumping over the fences.
Many of you have heard about the events that ensued at California’s Great America just over two weeks ago. For those of you who have not, in what was ruled a strong armed robbery, misinformation led park goers to believe that there was an active shooter on site that night. As a witness of the chaos, I have been left thoroughly shaken. To be reminded of my mortality was an abrupt call to reality from my utopian suburban life. It made me stop and wonder. What if? What if it wasn’t just a scare? What if I had been shot that night? Once in our car, we began frantically calling everyone. When I called my mother, the first thing she said to me was not “are you okay,” but rather “I am so sorry that [active shooter] is part of your vocabulary, I never wanted this for you.” I have been grappling with that statement ever since.
With innumerable acts of mass violence, the gun control debate has been a hot topic in recent years. However, it has been stalled by political divides. Gun control is not alone in this struggle. Climate change, immigration, and healthcare are among the many rising national conflicts that have been stagnated by division. Despite being the victims of this indecision, we students lack direct participation in the formation of laws that will save hundreds of our lives. So what is our responsibility in such dialogues?
Being a Catholic institution, Sacred Heart’s mission is to protect all life and dignity. With mandatory courses such as Social Ethics and the Social Justice Teach-In, we have been explicitly fed a message of activism. We, as an educational institution, are likewise responsible to ensure a safer tomorrow. Therefore, we have every reason to be at the forefront of the voices fighting for amity and protesting for positive change. But, in actuality, we are stuck in the middle of the pack. Mixed messages have left us and our community out of the discussion.
Last year, in response to the “March for Our Lives” movement, a brief walk out was planned for all students, faculty, and staff to stand in solidarity. It was a school-wide statement, defining our stance on a national division. It had promise to be the start of a new era in school history, one in which we were encouraged to stand up for our beliefs. However, it fell short in many ways. Civil disobedience is effective only through disrupting the status quo. By being an orchestrated event, with no repercussions, our demonstration shorthanded the power of such a display. Not only that, it was planned to occur before school even started so as to not interfere with scheduling. Everyone involved returned to their normal routine, and no impression was left by our actions.
Since then, all of us have regressed back to our underwhelming status quo, myself included. San Francisco’s portion of the Global Strike on Climate Change was hardly represented by Sacred Heart Prep. While we are educated to cherish our earth and will be devoting our SJTI to the topic, we not only received no support in attending said demonstration, there was barely a word on campus about the event. Administration barely made an effort to make it known before the fact, and students did not do any better. With very little action taken by administration or students, we all need to do better in the future.
As our community begins to rethink our foundational usage of time, resources and productivity, we must also rethink not only our stance on protest, but also how we act on that position. Our nation has been approaching a breaking point, and we need to do our part and act. Faculty and student body alike have some contemplation to undertake in the coming months to begin to fulfill the mission that St. Madeleine Sophie would have envisioned for us.
Photo by Riley Avina ’21, seconds before the Great America scare