I find much comfort living about a block from the Prosser Cemetery. I can see Tom’s headstone from my office, our backyard, and when I walk down to the corner to get the mail. I can also see the plots where some of the ashes of both my mother and father are buried.
A few years ago, Prosser passed a levy to build a desperately needed new high school as well as update other schools in the district. The high school is down the hill and just past the cemetery on a main east/west thoroughfare. After a few years of construction, students started classes in the new building this fall. The school unfortunately blocks our view of the mountains, and its red signs light up our skyline, but I am grateful to have had a voice in the design of the auditorium, backstage, and technical spaces which are godsends for arts classes and clubs. Our home is close enough to hear the melodic chimes informing students of passing and class times. We loved and appreciated hearing the marching band practicing outside during the fall.
LJ and I drive by both the cemetery and high school multiple times daily. Today as we drove up the hill to our cul de sac, I looked towards the south side of the cemetery and saw a group of veterans standing in a circle by the familiar tent and chairs set up regularly for graveside services. LJ mentioned whose service it likely was. We drove home and started working on our independent projects without giving any more thought to the funeral.
Maybe an hour later, I heard a bunch of gunshots; my immediate thought was that they were coming from the school. Of course, I wanted to believe that would never happen in our little community, but with the coverage of the recent Oxford High School shooting and another one which was stopped because two students spoke up about warning signs, my mind skipped over other, more reasonable, explanations, and panic set in.
It took me just a few seconds of horror to recall the veterans and the service in the cemetery between our house and the school. Relief — and a tad of embarrassment — washed over me as I made the connection. Fear of school violence weighed heavily on me when I was teaching. Active shooter drills and asking students to volunteer to smash shooters in the face or stomach with baseball bats while their classmates hid was something I just could not get used to. It is one of the few things I don't miss about teaching.
Thankfully, in the future, I will know the jarring sounds of gunfire are a show of respect for a veteran and not indicative of school violence.
Kimberly is a suicide loss survivor hoping to make a difference for others through her transparency.
Photo by Kimberly A. Starr