From Venezuelan Violence to American Mass Shootings – Caracas Chronicles

Picture: Reuters
My household left Venezuela for a safer place. However my years as a pupil in Florida, very near a highschool in Parkland, have been marked by concern
Carlos Rodríguez López Might 31, 2022
The 12 months was 2018. I used to be in my junior 12 months of highschool in Florida and it was Valentine’s Day. Flowers have been being despatched round campus, college students have been exchanging presents and the overall temper was relaxed. I used to be getting ready for my exams and I used to be simply ready for the bell to ring so I may go residence. Because the clock signaled the top of the college day, some folks began murmuring that there have been studies of an energetic shooter in a close-by college. 
In my mom’s automotive, I listened to a person narrating for a neighborhood Spanish-speaking radio station, in a somber tone, that there have been studies on social media of a faculty capturing in close by Parkland. All the time very skeptical of Miami radio, I simply turned it off, however as soon as I bought residence I began getting calls from my pals to activate the information as a result of apparently Marjorie Stoneman Douglas Excessive College, a faculty in our identical district, which we frequently play soccer in opposition to and with which we share an in depth relationship with, had an energetic shooter scenario. My mother and I instantly realized that the horrendous nightmare situation we often see on cable information in some far-off metropolis had lastly come to the college subsequent door.
After I noticed the grotesque videos that have been posted on social media, I seen how most of Stoneman Douglas’ school rooms not solely have been extraordinarily much like my college’s however that some college students nonetheless had their Valentine’s presents laying round whereas 5.56mm NATO rounds have been razing their school rooms. I began to appreciate that for many of those children that day had been a daily Wednesday identical to mine, however I bought to go residence to my mother after the bell rang and plenty of of them have been texting their mother and father and family members their closing goodbye. 
At that second, the obvious-by-now thought got here to my thoughts: “That might have been me.”
Not solely did this atrocity happen in a close-by college, however most of the victims have been my age, the college demographics have been similar to mine and even one of many college students that died was a Venezuelan
Put merely, I felt that if sure circumstances have been totally different, I may have been one of many seventeen individuals who misplaced their lives by simply making the straightforward choice of going to highschool. A haunting feeling that also accompanies me in the present day as I proceed to observe the checklist of mass shootings in the USA grow prefer it occurred this week in Uvalde, Texas.
As my group seemed horrified at what occurred to considered one of our colleges, terror began to stress children and oldsters alike on the best way to react after such tragedy. A large number of college students in my college have been refusing to attend out of sheer concern, as of their eyes, the opportunity of dropping their lives in class had been confirmed to be fairly actual. 
That concern was bolstered when threats have been made to my college and others round it, elevating the concept of a doable copycat capturing. Emails, calls, and letters from the Broward County College Board and the Superintendent’s Workplace have been despatched, reassuring mother and father of our security and trying to offer us a way of safety. When courses restarted, many school rooms have been virtually empty, leaving a number of lecturers no choice however to not educate and speak concerning the tragedy as a substitute.
Seeing college students and lecturers discuss violence, and uncertainty for his or her future as a substitute of issues like a Science quiz is something however regular. As for me, the fixed dialogue of politics, the suspension of courses, and everybody’s considerations concerning the close to future jogged my memory of the time when a sure person died whereas I lived in Caracas. For the primary time in 5 years, I frightened as a result of I felt my life was in peril. Any stranger may merely undergo the college gate with an AR-15 and break pandemonium. The bloodbath in Parkland solely took six minutes to be carried out. I used to be outraged by our authorities’s response to that scenario, like implementing some “really feel good” measures and sending “ideas and prayers,” as they’ve performed so many occasions.
For the primary time in my life, I felt that whereas my household and I escaped the hazard of crime in Caracas by transferring to the USA, we had reached a scenario the place that very violence we have been making an attempt to flee would possibly knock on my classroom door in the future, and I may do nothing about it besides conceal in a nook and hope the shooter didn’t see me.
In response to the Parkland capturing and to the tense scenario in colleges, the state legislature and the native authorities authorised sure insurance policies to make us “really feel” protected however which really did the opposite. For instance, armed cops began guarding each public college with the intention to arrest anybody thought of a risk. In actuality, these armed cops caused extra stress than something, as they began to arrest increasingly more college students each week for “behavioral causes”. As a current report discovered, lots of these arrests weren’t solely unjustified, however we noticed a rise in the usage of bodily restraints on college students for minor infractions, thus proving that an elevated armed police presence not solely did not make colleges safer, however really made the scholars really feel unsafe.
Moreover, the state additionally mandated the now infamous Code Pink drills: when the alarm rings throughout the center of sophistication, a voice speaks by way of the intercom saying that the college is “below code pink.” Which means that whereas the instructor turns off the lights and locks all doorways and home windows, college students must get on the ground, away from the home windows and… that’s it. It’s principally a process the place you get down in your knees and pray that if there’s a shooter, he/she magically forgets about you since you turned off the lights. It’s principally a month-to-month reenacting of the duck-and-cover drill Chilly Conflict children performed within the case of a nuclear assault. As a foreigner, I used to be completely shocked to see that these kinds of options have been the farthest the omnipotent authorities of the USA was keen to go to guard the era that may in the end develop into its future.
As the federal government was making an attempt its “hardest” at ending college shootings in America, the fixed risk of a capturing nonetheless existed in our minds. We tried to principally make jokes about it, like who can be our faculty shooter. Nevertheless, that was a manifestation of the sensation of powerlessness we felt in our place. As the one factor that we may do in that scenario—aside from the organizing—was simply transferring on and hoping we may end college alive and in peace. 
From time to time, one thing reminded us of the fragility of the peace we desired. I vividly bear in mind how, in my final semester of college, a time when college students often lay again and benefit from the remaining days with their pals earlier than going away to school, our faculty was put in lockdown due to a doable threat. We had a number of helicopters flying above us, ambulances on standby and terrified mother and father ready outdoors the college whereas armed cops checked each classroom looking for a suspect. As they failed to search out one, we have been dismissed till the subsequent day. The exceptional factor is that this occurred a number of occasions as increasingly more threats appeared, every time extra elaborate than the earlier one. We evacuated the college thrice that semester: as soon as due to a bomb risk and  twice due to capturing threats. 
After I graduated, my household was comfortable for me as I lastly closed one of the vital chapters in my youth, however most of them have been even happier that they have been being launched from the fixed concern of dropping me at college and having to marvel if it could possibly be the final time they’d see me alive. 
I’ll always remember my father’s phrases as quickly as I graduated: “Thank God you’re out of there, now your mother and I could be at peace.” 
1000’s of fogeys have been feeling the identical factor. Little did we all know that as a pupil at Florida Worldwide College, I’d nonetheless get warnings about doable capturing threats and drills. My expertise in an American highschool has marked me ceaselessly, not solely due to the reminiscences that I want no younger teen has to expertise throughout their time in class like I did, but in addition as a result of once I go wherever in the USA the place there’s a crowd, few exits, and a scarcity of tangible gun management laws, I concern hazard could possibly be simply across the nook ready for me,  even once I’ve been making an attempt to guard myself for therefore lengthy. 
This isn’t a sense that anybody needs to be having in a rustic as huge and {powerful} as the USA, the place the federal government is keen to ship folks to Mars however is unwilling to guard the youngsters in its colleges as a result of the political implications that it will carry from the gun foyer are too controversial, even when the plurality of Individuals at the moment are demanding change.
We’ve been capable of dangle on for 19 years in one of many craziest media landscapes on the planet. Now, the issue stage was raised abruptly with the worldwide pandemic. We’ve seen totally different media shops in Venezuela (and overseas) slicing personnel to keep away from closing store. That is one thing we’re seeking to keep away from in any respect prices, and it appears we’ll. However your collaboration goes a great distance in serving to us climate the storm.
Miami primarily based Political Science pupil, Editor and founding father of the Candela Política column.
Picture: Picture by LUIS ACOSTA/AFP through Getty Pictures
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