Yesterday, my 15 year old son and I left home for one of my favorite pastimes…shopping! It was an innocent late afternoon shopping adventure and I was beyond excited to get to spend some one-on-one “mom time” with my teenager. We entered the large shopping mall that evening not knowing we would leave changed, altered, and eyes wide open.

While shopping, we walked, talked, and picked out after-Christmas gifts. As we neared the end of our shopping adventure, bags in hand, we heard shouting and the undeniable sound of panicked running. In that moment, I experienced what I thought was a mother’s worse nightmare. Danger. My alarm bells went off and principal instincts kicked in. Every drill ever practiced came to mind. Clear the area. Get to a safe and secure area space away from windows. We moved quickly thanks to the help of an amazing clerk in the store selling Funko Pops. As the sounds of chaos subsided we slowly emerged and prepared to leave the mall. I could sense my son’s trepidation as we walked. We made our way to the car and I was immediately struck by the priceless gift walking next to me.

Little did I know, in that moment, my nightmare paled in comparison to that of the mothers receiving the call their children had been shot and that a 13 year old child had lost her life.

Thirteen is the age of most of my 8th grade students and my youngest son. My heart broke for that young lady, her family, and the future lost. As a mother and middle school principal this rocked me to my core. There is more senseless violence now than I can ever remember but this was another example of how violence rips opportunities away from so many youth. It was a reminder to hold those we love close and an opportunity to have critical and heartfelt conversations with my son about so many things on our ride home. My heart is with those families and so many others who have lost young lives to violence. I don’t have the answer but I will never stop sharing with my own children and those I serve. Violence is not the answer. We cannot answer violence with violence and expect it to produce true respect, life, or belonging…only Love and strength of character can do that.