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Gibson writes: "It was last Saturday when it hit me that my entire life has been framed by violence."

Students grieve at a vigil in Parkland, Fla., a day after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. (photo: Brynn Anderson/AP)
Students grieve at a vigil in Parkland, Fla., a day after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. (photo: Brynn Anderson/AP)

I Am 18. I Belong to the Massacre Generation.

By Julia Savoca Gibson, The Washington Post

04 November 18

Virginia Tech, Newtown, Orlando, Las Vegas, Parkland, Tree of Life. These are my memories.

t was last Saturday when it hit me that my entire life has been framed by violence.

I don’t remember being born on Jan. 28, 2000, and I don’t remember being a year and a half old when 9/11 happened. I don’t remember the panic of my mother as she stepped outside our house in Washington and smelled the smoke of the burning Pentagon. I don’t remember her knowing I would grow up in a changed world.

But I remember other things. I remember being 7 years old and seeing adults who were sad, angry, shocked after something terrible happened at Virginia Tech. I remember not knowing why. I remember the lockdown drills at my elementary school, the helpful signs in every classroom telling us where to hide in case of a “Code Blue,” which meant active shooter. (I remember we were told that having all the kids in one corner, a misguided protocol no longer followed, was the best means of protection.)

I remember being in seventh grade, and I remember my teacher looking up from her computer, pale, and running out of the room without a word during a quiz. I remember her walking back in, tears streaking her face, as she told us there had been a shooting in Newtown, Conn., where her grandchildren lived. I remember her telling us they were all right, and I remember thinking of my little brother in his second-grade classroom and feeling my stomach churn.

I remember walking into my high school the day after the Orlando nightclub shooting and seeing one of my gay friends sitting limply in a chair, eyes hollow. I remember sobbing. Often, I remember sobbing. I remember friends’ tears a year later, after the shooting in Las Vegas, and I remember feeling angry that I wasn’t crying. I remember Parkland the most clearly. I remember the silence. No one talked about it the morning after. No teachers mentioned it. I remember bringing it up at lunch but receiving only passing responses. I remember talking to my friend Max about how odd it was that no one said anything. I remember him gathering our friends to organize a walkout. I remember walking out, and I remember the silence of the crowd of students standing outside in the March cold. I remember the crackle of the megaphone we used as we read one name of one victim every minute. I remember those 17 minutes. I remember marching, once, then twice, and again and again.

I remember going with two friends last Friday to a Shabbat service in the spare room of a local Methodist church, sponsored by my college’s Jewish organization Hillel. I remember my friend Lucy leading the prayers, with her singing and playing guitar, and I remember my valiant attempts to sing along using the transliterations below the Hebrew in the books they’d handed out. I remember getting kosher dinner with them afterward as they explained to me how and why kosher food was a thing. I remember them describing the different kinds of Judaism they all came from.

I remember waking up on Saturday morning and seeing the news on my phone. I remember the sadness, shock, anger. I remember the haunting thought that the shooter might have gone to our service instead, or could go to the next one. I remember a stream of dripping wax burning my finger at the vigil I attended. I remember the look in my Jewish friends’ eyes.

And it was then that I remembered everything at once. I remembered all the violence looming around me, and my friends, and my entire generation. I remembered that for anyone born near the year 2000, this is all we’ve ever known.

I remember filling out my absentee ballot a few weeks ago. I remember voting, hoping that weeks, years, decades from now I’d be able to remember that we changed.

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+41 # indian weaving 2018-11-04 15:31
How can anyone possibly read this and not cry? Our children - this is what we've given them - raging hell in classrooms - daily massacres of innocent lives. Time to remove the regime yet? Past due, maybe? The Chambers Bros. got it right: "Time Has Come Today" - listen to the words:
+11 # Glen 2018-11-05 07:37
Problem is, indian, how to we remove those in the government who are wrecking the country. They have been working on this for decades. Citizens don't have any real say in it. Voting does not work. The government we have now makes no effort the stop the talk of violence and the encouragement of same.
+11 # Enoch E Birch 2018-11-05 00:15
Seventy five years ago very similar things were happening over most of Europe. For the past seventy they've been happening in the Middle East, Africa... To very much larger numbers of people, and with the forces of whole nations engaged. The age of massacres probably began in the middle of World War I, in the Turkish Empire. But the difference now seems to be that it's easier (uniquely?) in the US for an individual to go out and shoot victims on his or her own, without any organisation backing the act. The constitutional duty of responsible government is surely to end the alleged "right" to "bear arms". If you really wanted to, you could do it. But you don't.
+1 # economagic 2018-11-07 12:18
I don't know about the "Age of Massacres," but my Merriam Webster says the word was first used in 1587, during the reign of Good Queen Bess, in the year she had her Catholic cousin Mary, Queen of Scots, beheaded. That little incident led King Philip II of Spain to send an armada to be massacred at night in the English channel by Sir Francis Drake (also later beheaded) and others, setting off nearly a century of bloody conflict over whether England would remain officially Protestant or revert to Catholicism.
+7 # hereandnow 2018-11-05 02:23
Well, regrettably and sadly, I don't think that voting will help. In the US you only have two choices, either R or D and both of them support the 2nd ammendment. Until guns are bought back in a massive government program and destroyed this will continue. So, I would say, just get used to the insanity of mass shootings because as long as the choice for the voter is between D an R, nothing will change.
+15 # elkingo 2018-11-05 04:10
I was born 4 months before WWII. The war owned my childhood and cast horror and terror into my life forever. But it seems like nothing compared to the testimony of this young woman.
+7 # Porfiry 2018-11-05 08:50
Thank you for sharing. I'm doing my best at 84 to change the situation. I have 5 grandchildren that suffer the same way.
+10 # hectormaria 2018-11-05 09:55
Julia, the sad part is that by the time you reach 78 you will have witnessed many more massacres for OURS IS A VIOLENT SOCIETY. But, if there is any hope for change, it lies with you and our youth. Thank you.
+4 # Wise woman 2018-11-05 10:44
We need not look far for our own connection to a peaceful spirituality. Start within with what speaks to you. For me it's elements of Buddhism, Native American spirituality and Nordic and Celtic paganism which emphasizes the sacredness of the divine feminine. We need the feminine energy of peace, nurturing, love and caring for the other which includes the planet. These children deserve to have all of the above instead of what we are allowing to happen by not using our power whichever way we can. This is a personal responsibility we all need accept to bring about change.
+2 # PABLO DIABLO 2018-11-05 14:21
Sadly Julia, your story could have been written by a young woman from Guatemala, El Salvador, or Honduras. All the result of Reagan/Bush Contra War. And yet, the people fleeing the continual violence in their lives are branded as "rapists, criminals, terrorists, etc., etc. invading" the USA with a caravan. When will we wake up and take back "our" government. STOP the WAR MACHINE. I cry with you.
+5 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-11-06 11:37
Welcome to America. There are many, many generations of Americans who have awoken to the same realization. African Americans who have been subject to racist lynchings were also a generation massacre. Indians have endured centuries of efforts by the US government to exterminate them and steal their lands.

I second PD's comment above. The US has created massacre generations all over the earth. The US has created death squads in Central America, the middle east, central and south east Asia.

Maybe we should call it: The United States of Massacre.

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