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  • Writer's pictureKristy Barkley

Shattered on March 27, 2023

I woke up on March 27, 2023, about the same as I had over the last couple of weeks, in pain.

I’ve torn my rotator cuff and need either a miracle from God or surgery to heal it, and the long recovery process has me sad. As I walked my dogs, I was suddenly overwhelmed (and I hate using that word) by all of the other changes happening in my life. My best friend and husband is about to start working 4 hours away. We were gifted something abundantly nice, but I fear the strings attached. My son is still recovering from a broken jaw and concussion after being attacked in Chicago. Feeling like I am dropping balls all over the place. And feeling 10lbs overweight, without the ability to work out in a way that I love, because…shoulder.

So I started the morning committed to a 3 day metabolic reset and canceling all of my appointments, because as a life coach, I need to be on. I need to be able to give my all to my clients. And all I really felt that I could do in the moment was lay on the couch with my journal, my scriptures and felt like I should watch some episodes of the Chosen. In a perfect world taking the day off from my life wouldn’t be necessary, but the world isn’t perfect. I have found that if I pause immediately when I feel myself spiraling into sadness and overwhelm, and give myself 24 hours to sit in it, process it and move through it; I do exactly that. I move through it quickly and return to the version of myself that can tackle anything that comes at me.

There I was, laying on my couch, journal next to me, feeling sorry for myself. Until 11:14am, when my mom texted my brother and I a news link about a school shooting in Nashville. I won’t lie, my first thought was that I am so glad I homeschool our 5th grader. And then I started googling and realized that it was The Covenant School, a small, private, elementary school, in one of the wealthiest areas of middle TN. It was $16k a year to attend, and had an enrollment of about 209 children. I can only imagine that not one of those parents ever expected there to be a shooting in this school, which is attached to a wonderful and large church. I make this assumption based on the fact that I was one of those parents, but at a different, yet similar school. From 3rd - 12th grade, my oldest son went to a remarkable Christian school, just 6 miles down the road. And I was never fearful of dropping him off there. Never.

On the flip side, my beautiful bonus daughter goes to a huge public school and I don’t love it. I don’t think it is the safest or the best place for her to be. That has been my stereotypical thoughts, until yesterday. When the school shooting happened, at what each of us, in this community felt like was an extremely safe and protected school.

The head of school, Dr. Katherine Koonce, worked at Christ Presbyterian Academy for years, she was my oldest son’s academic dean, and one of the kindest ladies ever. I found out at 3:15, that she was one of the gunned down victims, and my heart shattered even more.

I was no longer consumed with fear over shoulder surgery, my husband working out of town, gifts with strings attached, or feeling like I wasn’t taking care of everyone I needed to take care of. I was only consumed with grief, followed by the thought “How do I make a difference? How can I prevent this from happening again?”

I prayed. A lot. I believe that prayer is important, because God can work miracles. But I also believe that God wants me to pray and then take action. That belief has been the foundation of my life. I often tell people that “Peter didn’t know he could walk on water, until he asked God, and then stepped out of the boat.” Prayer and action go hand in hand. So who am I to pray for this school, these families, these children, these first responders; and then take no action?

I haven’t identified what the action looks like. I need to do more research. I need to look into different groups, already working in this area. I do believe this is a huge mental health issue. But I also believe that it should be much more difficult for people with mental health issues to get an AR gun. I don’t disagree with all the people who shout from the rooftops, that laws only work for law-abiding citizens and that drug laws don’t keep people from getting drugs and gun laws won’t prevent people from getting guns. I just can’t help but feel like school shootings are different, though. I may be wrong, but I don’t think children are shot in schools by gang members or drug rings. The school shooters have to know that they will be shot or sentenced to life after they commit this crime. School shooters are not lifelong criminals, they are mentally unstable, bullied, outcasts and likely horribly depressed people, often still in their teenage years. Many of them are getting their guns from within their homes, so why aren’t the guns locked up? My dad has a lot of guns, I am 49 years old, I couldn’t begin to tell you how to access his guns, because he is a responsible gun owner.

I am not advocating for huge gun laws, but maybe some? TN has about zero gun laws. I have had tons of comments on my FB post and while many spend time explaining to me what an AR gun is, none of them have convinced me that they need an AR to protect themselves, their family or to gather food.

I don’t know how we get more help for the mentally ill, but I think starting in the schools is a huge step. Unfortunately, when the school based mental health services bill was voted on recently in TN, 219 democrats voted for it and only 1 republican. 205 republicans voted against getting this in. I can’t for the life of me figure out why you wouldn’t want more mental health support for our children, in the place where they spend the most time? You can say it is the parents responsibility, but that isn’t always possible. Of my 4 children, all 4 have gone to therapy. We have had to pay out of pocket for all of it, most people are struggling to pay their bills, they can’t afford $150 a week therapy session. Add to the cost, they would have to get them out of school, drive them to appointments, if they can even get an appointment, which is nearly impossible since Covid. How many of you reading this can afford to leave work for 3 hours a week to take your child from school, to therapy and then back to school and then back to work? There are not enough 4pm-6pm slots available to treat all of the kids that need and want therapy, I promise you.

Again, I have no answers, I have a lot of questions, and I am open to discussions, but not attacks. I have not attacked anyone who has different opinions than I do, and I expect the same respect. I learn the most from people who think differently from me, but only when it is in discussion format. If you are out there trying to convince someone to agree with you, I suggest starting by asking them why they currently believe the way they do. What is their opinion based on? What has occurred in their life that has them thinking the way they do? Ask more questions and stop shouting your opinion as if it is the only one that could possibly be correct. And put yourself in others shoes. Would you think differently if one of the 9 year olds killed at the Covenant School was your child or grandchild?

In closing, I want to commend, thank, and praise the first responders from our Metro Police Department. They ran straight in. They did everything right. They put their life on the line, for every child and staff member at The Covenant School. They stopped Audrey Hall, as she was shooting out a window at arriving police officers. They are heroes.

To those we lost yesterday, my heart weeps for your loved ones, still here on earth.

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Mar 29, 2023

I am so heartbroken by this. I agree with most of what you said, although wonder what led the republican party to vote against the bill you mentioned. I would like to think that it is not because of the subject, but the means being used or perhaps something else buried in the proposed bill that made it impossible to vote for. Our kids need so much more mental health care, and you’re absolutely right about there being not enough providers, not enough open tome slots, and it is extremely difficult for the parents/caregivers to make it work!! Our current system is so failing these kids :-(

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