Today is 4 years since your voice was silenced. It is now 4 years since I last heard your laugh, saw your smile, and kissed you goodbye. It is now 4 years since I last had the typical parental worries about you and how your day was going? What kinds of things you were learning? Whether you were happy? Whether you were safe?
You and your brother Jesse both know that I never engaged in “what if” conversations with you. In our home, you both heard me say many times that I do not discuss “what if” scenarios, I will only discuss “what is.” If you wanted to talk to me about something and ask me for something, you had to come
prepared with substance and facts about what was happening in real time, not engage me in “what if.”
Jaime, I was wrong. For the past 4 years, I find myself asking “what if” every minute of every day.
What if you were sick that morning and we never sent you to school? What would your day have been like then? Would fate have intervened some other way or would you now be the beautiful 18-year-old teenager living her best life at The University of Florida? What would your dorm room look like? Who
would your roommate be? Would you have your first college boyfriend? Would you be studying to be a pediatric physical therapist as you had always planned? Would you still be dancing?
What if your murder never happened and the past four years included new photos, new videos, and new memories with you? What would they include? What would you be like today? I know with certainty you would still be the energy and voice in every room that you stepped into and that everyone
would be responding to you.
What if a shooter never came to your school that day? What if a teenager or any other person with known risks was never able to acquire guns or ammunition to cause harm to others? What would our family be like now? What would our community be like now? What would my life be like now? Would I be living a much calmer life experiencing the happiness of becoming an empty nester with mom, or would I have ended up in this political environment some other way? Would mom and I be going to the University of Florida to watch Gator football games with you and watching you thrive? The truth is this year we stopped watching the college football games. It is too painful for us to know that you are not there.
What if every day now, my day still began by telling you how much I love you in person or on the phone, and not telling you while sitting at your graveside? What if our day still included plans for your future, instead of sadness over what I will never experience with you? What if the dominant thought in my
head was still dreams of walking you down the aisle at your wedding and becoming a grandparent to your children? What if the dominant thought in my head was not images of your final minute before you were killed?
What if the last thought in my head every day was not your FINAL seconds and wondering did you suffer? What if I did not have to go to bed every day hoping that you died instantly, out of fear that if you did not, that means you did suffer.
What if this country genuinely and truly prioritized life and reducing gun violence before February 14th, 2018? What if efforts to reduce gun violence had been passed after any of the other shootings that came before this? What if Florida had laws in place like those passed 3 weeks after you were murdered? Would this shooting have been prevented? Would so many of the other shootings have been prevented? Would you yourself be a gun safety activist or some other type of activist? What if you were not buried in a cemetery and still alive, because of the effort’s others could have taken before
February 14th, 2018? What if America understood before you were killed, or even today, that reducing gun violence is a public health issue and not a second amendment issue? What if because of that, instead of becoming a symbol for the failure of America to protect life, fate had intervened in a different way, and made you a fighter for others?
What if America learned from its prior mistakes? What if America prioritized life and the reduction of gun violence over other fake and manufactured issues currently being pushed on students and parents?How many parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, friends, and communities could be saved from needing to wonder what if? What if we could all agree on a way to move America forward to being a society where we can again send our kids to school without active shooter drills or fears of being shot, or to a movie, or to a mall, or to a place of worship? What if we could all agree that we owe it to our kids to be better than this, and to change course NOW, so that our kids and their kids can grow up in an America that genuinely and truly values life?
It is never too late to change from “what if” to “what is” and finally do something about gun violence. Doing so now may save the life of the person you love, so that you don’t spend the rest of your life wondering what if.