My name is Blaine Ephrem. Last year, I had written about the Saugus High School shooting, which took the precious lives of Gracie Ann Muhlberger and Dominic Blackwell on Nov. 14. We will all remember that day and remember what we all lost that day, too.
One of the reasons I’m writing here again is to say that I am so grateful for the unbelievable amount of support I’ve received since that day. The way this community gathered together to bring comfort to the students and staff at Saugus is truly inspiring. I wanted to thank the people who supported me and read my essay. I’m so grateful for the people in my life who helped me through this tough time.
Thursday, May 14, marked six months since those beautiful lives were taken so suddenly. Six months ago we lost our innocence. Six months ago many tears were shed. Six months ago was just a normal Thursday morning that changed in an instant. Six months ago our lives; forever impacted.
Today I want to talk about the healing process, how it feels to be going back to school, and what has been happening the last six months regarding the change we wish to seek.
To be completely honest, this healing process is tough. Losing a classmate is not easy, losing a close friend is even harder. I was close to Dominic Blackwell. He was one of my best friends. He was like a brother to me. I met him in 7th grade and we had been friends ever since. I miss him so much. The pain of losing him still lingers here. There isn’t a day where I don’t think about him. What hurts the most, though, is that there wasn’t a reason why he died. He didn’t deserve this.
Through this whole experience I have noticed there are ups and downs of this healing process. Something my science teacher Mr. Stradling told me, that “sometimes you’ll feel fine and OK but then something happens and it’ll send you right back to square one.”
I didn’t know that this was true until it happened to me. Some days will just send me right back to the morning of Nov. 14 and everything gets dark again. Not to sound dramatic or anything, but those days hurt the most. It’s an empty, sad feeling that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy.
One message that I want to get across to anyone dealing with pain of any kind, is that no matter what everyone says: “give it time” or “time will heal this,” you have to know that healing has no time limit, because no one can tell you when you should be healed. Healing occurs at its own pace. It’s going to hurt but you have to keep pushing. Because at the end, one day, you are going to be OK again.
Going back to school has to be the hardest thing I have ever done. We [my friends] used to hang out at the same place the shooting happened. As soon as I got to school, I said, “I love you,” to my parents, met with my friends and shed many tears. I went to the place I was standing that day, and everything came rushing back. I tried to stay positive and act like everything was fine but dang, that was painful. All the memories with Dominic came flashing back. Definitely the most excruciating feeling ever.
I still can’t wrap my mind around the fact that it has been half a year since the shooting. It’s shocking the way time flies. The support from my family and friends has kept me going for a long time and for that I am forever grateful. Although my family will never really know what happened that morning, they have brought me so much solace and comfort. And I have friends who were there that day and are going through the same thing. I am truly blessed to have all this support around me.
As I said in the essay before, we want change. Over the course of the last six months not many changes have been made. Recently, a terrible mass shooting taking the lives of 22 people took place in Nova Scotia. The prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, took immediate action and banned all military assault weapons in Canada, saying, “There is no use – and no place – for such weapons in Canada.” This is the kind of action we need from our leaders. The right to bear arms is guaranteed in the Constitution and I understand that we can’t just take all guns away from people, but it has become way too easy for people to hurt others with weapons.
The gun used in the Saugus High School shooting was called a ghost gun. Before Nov. 14, I didn’t even know that these exist. A ghost gun is any type of firearm assembled from a kit or created with a 3D printer. Anyone can purchase one and they are practically invisible to law enforcement. The Saugus High School shooting became the first shooting where the shooter used a ghost gun. Currently, the ATF, the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, has done nothing about the growing concern over people getting their hands on guns when they shouldn’t.
I believe that the ATF should be able to ban any purchases of ghost guns because it shouldn’t be an easy process to get a gun. The people buying these guns do not need background checks and can just purchase one online just like you would on Amazon.
What we went through is an all too familiar feeling across America, as we walked out of our school that Thursday morning with our hands up, just like thousands of other students around the country have before.
I remember seeing these videos online a while ago, about children hiding in classrooms, texting their parents that they were scared and it was heartbreaking. I started to care about the idea of gun control and became interested in ways to contribute to the effort.
When I was there that morning, texting my mom “I love you,” trembling in fear, believing that it was over, just makes it so much more personal.
We shouldn’t have to worry about becoming the next victim in a school shooting. As students, we should be more focused on our studies. It shouldn’t be our priority to fight for this change but if it’s going to be, we will fight for it.
We don’t need just thoughts and prayers. We don’t want to be another statistic.
Right now, most of us can’t vote yet so we are counting on the young adults and others who are able to vote, to help make a change so we can finally have safe schools.
The future of America is dying in schools, relentlessly.
We need action.
Blaine Ephrem is a Saugus resident.