Local media outlets prepare to film a press conference in downtown San Diego. / File photo by Adriana Heldiz

I read a Twitter thread the other day and I couldn’t help but cry. 

The thread was from a man named Brett Cross, whose son Uziyah was murdered in the Robb Elementary shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in May. The 21 children and teachers murdered that day made it the deadliest mass shooting of the 648 recorded by the Gun Violence Archive in 2022. According to the K-12 School Shooting Database, there were 303 shootings on school grounds in 2022.  

“Today is not a good day,” Cross wrote. “I can’t stop crying. I hurt so fucking bad. I try so damn hard to not fall apart but every day it gets harder. I push my feelings down and put on a mask. I’m not just the pissed off dad. I’m the broken dad.”  

His pain and despair were so immense, but unfortunately, far from unique. It’s replicated in the lives of family and friends every day in America. I imagine it’s also magnified with the news of each inevitable shooting. I haven’t been able to get his pain out of my head. 

I’m not a father, and I don’t think I ever will be. But the thought of a school shooting is one of the most singularly horrific thoughts I can conjure. But I do think about it. It would be my job to cover it should that dark reality come to San Diego. And when I do think about it, I feel sheer terror. After all, school shootings have already occurred in San Diego. More than once. As a middle schooler in La Mesa in 2001, two shootings occurred at high schools less than 20 miles from my school within three weeks. 

I attended a conference for journalists in October, and one of the workshops was about how to cover a mass shooting. Lying in bed that morning I stared at the schedule, attempting to gird myself for it. The fact that it existed at all felt like a bad dream. I didn’t want to attend, but I felt like I had to. In a similar way to how school officials and law enforcement must prepare for school shootings, so too do journalists. We serve an important function, often in the aftermath, to tell the stories of those affected, and to investigate how it all happened. This is evidenced by the dogged reporting of the failures that likely magnified the toll of the shooting that took the life of Cross’ son. 

But when I arrived at the workshop, the room was already full. It was overflowing, actually. Organizers pulled the doors closed and apologized, leaving a half dozen or more reporters standing aimlessly in the hallway. Just four days before that workshop a gunman murdered two and injured four others at the Central Visual and Performing Arts High School in St. Louis.  

Gun violence in America far exceeds the rest of the world. Guns are now the leading cause of death of children under 18. Whether at schools, public gatherings or workplaces, shootings occur at such a dizzying pace that it can be hard to keep track. This is a reality that American children of all ages carry with them into the classroom each day. The K-12 School Shooting Database has thus far recorded 28 shootings in 2023. 

The occurrence is so common that there now exists a grim fraternity of bereaved parents, friends and family begging for something – anything – to be done. Fred Guttenberg, who was thrust into activism against gun violence after his 14-year-old daughter Jaime was murdered in the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, even responded to Cross’ Twitter thread. “Sent you a private message. Please call me,” he wrote. 

Part of a journalist’s job is to bear witness – to communicate the trauma and pain of the world and in turn to help the world digest it. But the pain of the journalist’s experience pales compared with the pain of those experiencing the loss. That’s the kind of story I’m truly afraid of covering. The kind that school shootings so devastatingly seem to continue to be. Ones where so many young lives are destroyed or permanently altered and so many hearts broken and yet nothing much seems to change. The fact that it may only be a matter of time before I have to makes it even scarier.  

What We’re Writing 

  • During a meeting at the teachers union headquarters earlier this month, San Diego Unified teachers vented their frustrations about the universal transitional kindergarten program to district officials. Among their complaints were that the program was launched with a virtually nonexistent curriculum, inadequate supplies, insufficient training and a lack of staff. 
  • After a year of back-and-forth and objections from the California State University system, San Diego City College’s bachelor’s degree in cyberdefense and analysis was finally approved. It will be the first bachelor’s program in the community college’s over 100-year history. 

Jakob McWhinney is Voice of San Diego's education reporter. He can be reached by email at jakob@vosd.org and followed on Twitter @jakobmcwhinney. Subscribe...

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