Every Day I Take a Picture of My Daughter Before School in Case She is in a Mass Shooting

Every Day I Take a Picture of My Daughter Before School in Case She is in a Mass Shooting
Picture by Jef Rouner
My morning ritual with my daughter is simple and banal now that she’s back in school. I pack her lunch or check her school account to make sure there’s money in it if she wants to buy. We argue about how brushed her hair is because she’s inherited my feral child locks and hates ponytails. She feeds the fish, finds her glasses. I put the harness on the dog because her school is within walking distance and I can kill two chores at once.

And we take a picture, partly because childhood is short and should be documented. Partly because her mom leaves for work hours before we get up and wants to see her. Mostly because we want to have a concrete reminder of what she was wearing in case something horrible happens.

Because horrible things happen a lot. As of June of this year Business Insider counts 154 mass shootings in America. Ones with small body counts such as the recent Jacksonville massacre by a guy who lost a Madden tournament aren’t generally counted as mass shootings, but are still horrific. Houstonians got a particularly gruesome reminder of armed, murderous reality last May when Dimitrios Pagourtzis opened fire at Santa Fe High School, killing ten. They won’t be the last.

I noticed differences at my daughter’s school this year when we went in for the parent orientation they hold in August. It’s one of those open concept schools with no doors on most of the classrooms. Stand in the right place and you can see from one end of the building all the way to the other. It’s supposed to make school less stifling and let in more natural light. Maybe it does.

However, the foyer is enclosed in glass now. There are doors where there used to be open halls, three of them immediately as you walk into the building. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that it might come in handy in a sudden lockdown. I saw them, and I thought about Houston writer Holly Lyn Walrath’s poem “Espejitos.”

remember the properties of glass
or her ghost may follow you in the mirrors

I hope the properties include being bullet-resistant. Almost nothing is bullet-proof with the right gear.

They were already doing mass shooter drills before Santa Fe. Now, they even have recess organized differently. Kids are herded into specific play zones that rotate over the course of 40 minutes. My daughter said the teachers told her it was easier to keep track of them that way. I’m sure it is.

Shortly she’ll be in middle school, so bye bye cute Jansport backpacks. Hello clear and mesh ones. Galena Park ISD is already using them in elementary schools.

It’s beyond all sense the level of normalcy we’ve adapted to deal with this. We just take it for a given. Whenever my daughter’s school goes on lockdown for something – a few years back it was a robbery in the area – I don’t even consider leaving my house to check on her. I don’t even call. I wait for a text because there’s a system for texting me to let me know when potential danger is over.

It’d be handy in all sorts of cases, but it was designed for shootings, and that’s always the first thing I think of when the system alerts me. Who brought a gun, why and what was the cost?

And I ask myself, what was she wearing in case someone needs to find a lost little girl who fled a hail of bullets before math. Or worse, identify a faceless corpse that used to be my daughter. That’s what I think about every morning when I snap her picture. If there’s an alert I’ll look into her eyes on my phone and feel her question.


I don’t know, sweetheart. It’s just how it all is now.
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Jef Rouner is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner