A few years ago, my daughter skipped home from elementary school and we had our usual How was school today? chat as we strolled home from our normal meeting spot. That day, she told me that they’d had a drill. I said, laughingly, “Oh! I remember those! Did you get to leave class and go outside and line up by the fence like we used to?” “Oh no, mom,” she replied. “It was, like, you know, for if someone comes in with a gun.”
My heart sank. I later found out it was called a lockdown drill. I asked her, through my choked up voice, what it was like. She described the drill nonchalantly: “Oh, the teacher locks the door and we have to sit in a a circle on the rug, and be real quiet.” My brain immediately went two places: one, I pictured what that would really, truly look like, if there was a shooter in my own child’s school, her sweet, scared face, and the faces of all her friends; and two, I was angry with myself. After knowing people killed in the 1991 Luby’s massacre in my hometown of Killeen, Texas, and after Sandy Hook, and after the numerous horrendous shootings, I wondered why it took this— something so personal— to hit me so hard, to compel me to do something.
I grew up in Central Texas. I was raised about an hour north of Austin, in Killeen. I am proud of where I came from, but Killeen also has a very sad legacy of gun-related tragedies. In fact, there was even a school shooting in 1981 when I was in 4th grade at Harker Heights Elementary. Then, of course, there was the Luby’s Massacre in 1991, killing 24 and injuring 27, and the Ft. Hood mass shooting in 2009, killing 13 and injuring 33.
The anger and sadness I felt turned to a desire to take action. But I had no idea what to do. So I did the only thing I felt I could- I wrote and recorded a song. When I ask in the chorus, “Why does it have to be in your backyard, why is it only real when it hits home…?,” I was very much talking to myself. I realized that I shouldn’t have waited to take action. And taking it one step further, as I wrote those lyrics, I thought about all our politicians and those in power who have the ability to change things, and yet they don’t. History keeps repeating itself. What will it take to make them DO something?
The first and third verses of this song are about the realities of my daughter’s drill, while the second verse looks back to thirty years ago and the shooting at my elementary school, which is a blur to me. I remember confusion that day, and hearing of someone being shot. See attached a newspaper clipping, below, describing the incident that day.
We filmed the video for this song on September 16, 2016. As I went on social media to share the news after we wrapped filming, what was the first thing I saw on Twitter? Yes, unbelievably, there had just been yet another school shooting that very day at a high school in Alpine, Texas. That news truly drove home that there’s no stopping our work on ending this violence. We have to keep at this, to change this reality to a thing of the past.
Please watch and share, and know that counts as taking action and is a great first step! Thank you!
YOUR BACKYARD LYRICS:
Leaves were blowing down the street
I went to the usual spot where we’d meet
There she came, eyes big, she skipped and said
We had a drill today and tilted her little head
Oh I remember filing out one by one
She said no mama, it’s if somebody comes in with a gun
And it struck me hard and I felt the tears starting to burn
Pulled her to me, wondered, will we ever learn
Why does it have to be in your backyard
Why is it only real when it hits home, so hard
Why does our history have to repeat
For it to really mean something to you
Holding hands strolling home remembering a day
Thirty years before when this came my way
He shot her at the flagpole, got shot himself
Us little ones confused, sheltered from this hell
My heart breaks cause nothing’s really changed
It’s elementary my dear, your own personal shooting range
Sick to ask but I had to know
Tell me, how did this thing go
We sat in a circle on the rug she reports
Be real quiet and our teacher locks the door
I wanna collapse and cry picturing those little faces
Please god make this end, no more, no shots, no places
For more music and videos from Amy, visit her YouTube music playlist. For more articles to #RockYourLife with Amy, click here, and if you’re a first time visitor to RY, here’s a great place to start! Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, or keep up on Facebook, too!