Letter: Westerly High students can’t rely on hope alone for protection from school shooters

Letter: Westerly High students can’t rely on hope alone for protection from school shooters

I want to start off by saying this is a goodbye note. This is not a suicide note, let me make that clear. This is not a note for when I get hit by a drunk driver, coming home from college. This is not a note for when I pass away from a terminal illness. This is a note for when I am killed in a school shooting.

In 2013, 200 children died from drunk-driver-related accidents. That’s about 25 children in 45 days.

In 2017, it is estimated that 1,790 children died from cancer. Cancer is the No. 1 killer of children. That’s about 221 children in 45 days.

Forty-five days into 2018, 20 children have died in school shootings. At this rate, 162 children in 2018 will die in school shootings.

I may be one of them. Today, I watched videos of children sobbing as they evacuated their school past their dead classmates. I sobbed with them. Today, I read texts from children to their parents, saying goodbye. I thought about the texts I have been ready to write to my mother every single lockdown drill. I love you.

Every day before school I tell my mother I love her, though she is often asleep. Why? Because I never know if it will be the last time I tell her I do.

I tell her I love her and I write this note for the same reason: Westerly High School is not a safe place, despite assuring emails. A two-building, campus-style school with students moving from building to building every hour for seven minutes, practically unsupervised, is unsafe. In the time it takes a student to cross from Ward to Babcock, in those seven minutes, 315 rounds can be shot from a single AR-15, the same device used at Sandy Hook, Las Vegas and now, Florida.

With one cop to protect a thousand students and dozens of faculty, we are in no way safe. With secretaries who don’t even ask for your name when you enter the building late, we are in no way safe. With no ban on semiautomatic weapons at the state or national level, we are in no way safe. With no lengthened waiting times to purchase firearms, we are in no way safe. With no mental evaluation in order to purchase a firearm, we are in no way safe. With no heightened background checks at both gun stores and gun shows to purchase a firearm, we are in no way safe. Until action is taken to protect students instead of remembering and praying from them after they have been murdered, we are in no way safe.

The only measure taken at Westerly High School to protect students from a potential school shooter is to huddle them in a corner and lock the door. Except our classes are oversized, so even when huddled in the corner, you can still see us in the little window. We have no escape route. We have walkie-talkies and hope. Hope doesn’t stop bullets.

Am I asking to abandon hope? No. I have advocated and defended hope with every exhaled breath. But we cannot rely solely upon hope. We must let our hope empower and emblazon us with passion so we can fight for what is right, to protect our communities. I ask that you hope and fight so this can be read in the paper and not by my best friend as a eulogy.

This brings us to the goodbye portion of my note. Goodbye to all those I have met and loved. Goodbye to all those I had yet to meet and love. Goodbye to my mother, I love you and thank you for all that you have done for me. Goodbye to my grandparents, I love you and thank you for your evergreen support. Goodbye to my family, I love you and thank you for shaping who I became.

Goodbye to my best friend, I love you and our little jokes and memories from trips to French class. Goodbye to all those who I ever considered my friend, I love you and I will miss you.

Goodbye to all my teammates and coaches, I love you and I will miss our struggles in practices and triumphs on the course and field. Goodbye to all my teachers, I love you and thank you for teaching me as much as I could.

Goodbye to you, I love you and thank you for reading a young girl’s thoughts. I am grateful for how much I was able to live, how much I was able to learn, how much I was able to love.

I hope dearly, desperately that this goodbye note will never ring true. But someone else’s goodbye will ring true. If not me, someone else will have to say goodbye to their family, friends, hopes, dreams and life.

It is time for the end of this piece and I must say goodbye. Please do not let this be my last goodbye. Please hope for me and other children. Please hope and fight for us. Demand change. Contact the School Committee members and call for action at and open forum; their contact information is listed on the town website. Contact the district legislators, beg them to write and support bills for gun control in the General Assembly. Contact our national representatives and senators, tell them you do not want my name and my classmates’ in the obituaries.

The fight to protect our nation’s children from gun violence and shootings is not over. This point is not moot. The fight only ends when you decide that you will stop fighting for justice. Those who have died and those who have survived deserve justice. Those who live today and desire to feel safe while they learn deserve justice. We may have that right to own a firearm, but that right is not unlimited. Our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is unlimited. Our right to peacefully protest, speak of love and safety and to fight for justice for American families is unlimited. Let us exercise that.

Quinn Chappelle

Quinn Chappelle is a senior at Westerly High School.


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