Saturday morning, we awoke to uncharacteristically gray, dreary weather here in Santa Barbara. The air felt like heavy wet wool.
Normally, Saturday mornings are one of my favorite moments of the week because I have the joy of coaching our Kids Corner Coyotes running program with Nash Jimenez, but this morning was anything but light and joyful. My shoulders were wrapped in a heavy shawl of melancholy.
It was almost as if Mother Nature knew.
She knew that less than twelve hours earlier six college students had been murdered at UCSB-Isla Vista, just two minutes from where we were holding our morning practice at Goleta Beach Park. And she knew that thirteen others had also been injured by a gun-wielding madman, incapable of managing his rage.
When I first heard the news earlier that the morning, I was sickened, saddened, and furious.
But I was not one bit surprised.
Why wouldn’t another mass shooting happen when nothing had changed since the last one…or the one before…or the one before? And why wouldn’t it be in my own backyard? Santa Barbara is no more special than any other place in America where anybody can buy a gun and use it whenever they feel disenchanted with their life.
As I drove to practice Saturday morning to get everything set up for our team’s arrival, I fought off the angry lump in my throat and sported my World’s Best Actress hat. This coach was not prepared to explain to thirty-five little ones why she had tears in her eyes, nor why something this atrocious could possibly happen AGAIN, and so close to home, especially since several of our Coyote parents are UCSB professors.
As I plastered on a fake smile when the kids arrived and looked at all the bright, and blissfully clueless faces sitting before me, all I could think about was how horribly we have failed, and continue to fail our kids.
How by not standing up to the NRA and all the greedy gun-lobbying bullies and politicians, and those who claim that it’s their “God-given right” to own assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons, we are showing these kids we do not care. We do not care if they are murdered at their preschools or elementary schools. We do not care if they are mowed down the week before they are supposed to graduate from college. We do not care if they’re scared to go to a movie theater or shopping mall because it no longer feels safe. We do not care if they’re terrified because their parents are teachers, principals or university professors.
As I moved through the motions of our team announcements and chirped on about our fabulous Runners of the Week and our Word of the Week, I was thankful that kids always have a way of making you operate in the present, whether you want to or not. It was soon impossible for me to think beyond the immediate circle of adorable-ness sitting before me, and certainly not beyond the workout ahead of us as I got peppered with question after question.
“Coach Becky, how far is the State Street Mile race we’re doing next week?”
“It’s called the State Street Mile,” I replied while trying not to laugh, “because it’s a 1-mile race.”
“Coach Becky, can you tie my shoe?”
“Coach Becky, guess what? I ran 7 miles this week!”
“Coach Becky, can we run on the pier? Pllllleeeeaaase?”
And so it went, an hour and fifteen minutes of kids being kids, runners being runners. Pure bliss.
By the end of practice, my shoulders felt lighter and my heart felt full, but anger still simmered deep inside, knowing there will undoubtedly be another shooting…at least until we have the guts to take a stand and say, “NOT ONE MORE,” to show our kids that we value their lives and their futures far more than we value our freedom to own and wield a damn gun.