What If I Die Today?


It’s a question I ponder every time I part with my children. I teach in the college classroom, and I lived through a mass shooting.

But my kids don’t experience these emotions when they hug my neck and wave goodbye. They truly believe I will return.

And all the way to the office, I pray that they are right.

When I was in graduate school, I studied infectious diseases. The next great public health crisis will result from overpopulation or mosquitoes, I remember learning.

A few years later, Ebola arrived. Then Zika.

But I would argue there is a serious epidemic emerging in a more sterile environment: higher education. Don’t get me wrong, I love working with young adults. Their promise and intellectual gifts give me hope for the future, and, let’s be honest, they sharpen my own knowledge.

Only mental health services aren’t what they should be. Examine any university and you will see a disturbing trend: there are too many students and not enough counselors and psychologists. Additionally, high-stakes testing and a decline in the family unit have only placed further pressure on young minds.

And, sometimes, life gets really heavy.

My wake-up call came almost two years ago. I was five months pregnant and my husband was out of town. During instruction, one of my students stole my cell phone.

Internal panic ensued. I no longer felt safe in my job. And suddenly the years of healing following April 16, 2007 were undone.

Now, my classroom door remains locked.

Now, I look for red flags.

Now, I contemplate my return home.

Yesterday, a student threatened harm on the campus of The Ohio State University. Every day I prepare myself for the unknown danger that may be present on my own campus.

But you’ve got to trust them to teach them, Lauren.

So I squeeze my children a little tighter.

8 thoughts on “What If I Die Today?

  1. Wow, Lauren. That you came out of your experience at Virginia Tech with such bravery as to return to the college classroom every day as an Instructor… that’s proof that you are one of the courageous souls that stares down trauma and disarms it. Not that you aren’t plagued with a very human fear, but that fear doesn’t stop you.

    Mad props, Momma!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I remember working at school and feeling scared after an evacuation and a threat. I cannot fathom the fear of living thru an active shooter situation. You must really love teaching, and your students must really be important to you. I am sure that shows in the classroom too. They are lucky to have someone so dedicated.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s very true. Earlier this year, I went to an active shooter training. The officer leading it said, as a society, we’ve moved from an active shooter incident being a rare circumstance to a probability. Although not ideal, it does give me peace to know I am charged with helping keep my students safe. And, to be honest, I do my best to monitor their mental health. It’s absolutely critical at this point in history.

      Liked by 1 person

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