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South Carolina Honors College

Thursday Morning Math Class

by Jaimie Park  

I was sitting in my first class of the day on Thursday, October 17, half-asleep while my math teacher droned on and on about vectors and double angle formulas. It was almost the end of our high school’s spirit week, an energetic, fun-filled seven days that managed to completely drain me and leave my brain without any mathematical knowledge whatsoever. I was praying for a respite. 

Suddenly (it must have been fate!) the front office abruptly announced over the intercom that we were under a hold - this meant that students must remain in their first periods and could not go out into the hallways until further notice. As everyone began to complain about being stuck in math class, I was secretly relieved and sank down in my chair. With everyone, including the teacher, distracted by this sudden announcement, I could catch some well-needed sleep. Everyone was irritated and confused. I was sleepy and indifferent. 

To this day, I wonder just how different all of our reactions would have been if we had known that someone had a loaded gun hidden in their backpack, the reason for our lockdown, just one floor below us. 

Thankfully, the student was taken into custody and the gun was confiscated before anything could happen. When I finally found out about everything, I praised a God I didn’t believe in for letting me live, hugged my parents, and, after some time, moved on. Yet, as gun violence on school grounds increases with no effective remedy in sight, as rising numbers of parents confront the burning possibility their children may not return home from school, we can no longer move on from this vital issue. While I do not hesitate to realize how fortunate I was in surviving this encounter - along with the other 1,300 students that remained healthy and alive that day - it does not escape me that in other schools, in similar situations, the student wasn’t taken into custody in time; the concealed, loaded gun was fired, lives were taken, people were broken. Those whose loved ones were taken by school shootings cannot move on from this perpetual cycle.

In our friendly, charming state that does painfully little to remedy the crisis, we choose to mediate this pain and loss with thoughts and prayers. For example, the tragic Tanglewood Middle School shooting of twelve-year-old Jamari Jackson by another twelve-year-old in Greenville, South Carolina, was met merely with thoughts and prayers by our own governor. Henry McMaster, in response to this devastating shooting, expressed his sympathies in a tweet requesting prayers for the Tanglewood community, while continuing to support misguided, ineffective relief efforts and simultaneously showcasing his inability to deal with one of our state’s worst crises. In the wake of this horrifying act of gun violence, South Carolina’s indifference was uncovered – not our indifference to the shooting, where sympathies and emotions were plentiful, but our indifference to take action. 

For all the children who never came home from school, whose lives were taken by the epidemic of gun violence in South Carolina that we refuse to address or even recognize, our thoughts and prayers were not enough to save them. They will never be enough. South Carolina must take the initiative to mediate this crisis and consider our state’s duty to its children and students: to protect them. The time for thoughts and prayers has long passed – we demand action. 

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.