My Best Friend Teaches at Parkland. Thankfully This is Not a Eulogy.

Last weekend, I went to a wedding. I only knew the bride and her sister, so I was magnanimously provided with a plus one. Since the wedding was in my home state of Florida, I knew who I would take: Best Friend Lauren.

Lauren and I had a great day. First, we met up, then got Starbucks, and then sat around with a few friends we see when I’m in town and chatted about our lives and families and real estate. The whole lot of them helped put makeup on my face, and Lauren took a few minutes to make herself (even more) beautiful. We got dressed in complementary colors, because we’re adorable as hell, and headed to the wedding.

Because of traffic and my unwillingness to really floor it in my dad’s car, we arrived at the wedding just before the beloved bride was walking down the aisle. Whoopsies. Lauren and I sat in extra chairs by the yarmulke table.

The evening was lovely. I have a complicated history with weddings, and I found myself surprised at how much fun I was having. We played croquet, took gorgeous photos, ended up in the inner circle for the hora, and stuffed our vegetarian faces with fine snacks. “This is,” I kept repeating, “the hottest date I have ever taken to a wedding. Hands down.”

A few times, I would look next to me on the dance floor, and my hot date disappeared. She would rematerialize moments later, and it took me a few vanishings before I saw what she was doing: proffering plastic cups of ice water, or a cocktail napkin, for husband or wife — our joyous couple — to cool off, or dab their sweaty, ecstatic faces.

“You know, you’re the best person I know,” I said. “You’re for sure the best person at this wedding. You don’t even know the bride or groom!”

She scoffed, quietly, and we went back to our joyful dancing to hits of the ‘80s, ‘90s, and today.

We also talked about lockdown drills, a normal topic of conversation for educators these days. Lauren said her classroom door was near to the bus loop gate, which sometimes is left open. You know, for buses, they open the perimeter of the school. She has to keep an eye on it, explaining to students that the fence is there for safety, not convenience. We talked about our experiences, and about the time, during a drill, that I told a student that I would be fired if I let her out during a lockdown. I wasn’t sure if it was true, but I’ll take a sobbing kid with an anxiety disorder over a casualty any day. “Sit and cry quietly,” I told the poor child. After the drill, I sent that girl, sobbing uncontrollably, to the guidance counselor as I shakily drew my own breath.

I returned from Florida and started a new job. I was at my desk on day two when I was told to turn on the news. That’s when I told my brand new colleague that I cannot pay attention to her right now. I sat, shaking, nauseated, and sobbing quietly at my desk. I texted and texted and texted until it was confirmed — my best friend, the best person at that wedding and probably in the world, was NOT murdered at her job today.

My best friend, who recently raised $100,000 so that her school — Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — could have lights on their baseball field, was called to do even more. She was called to lock down her students and save them from a murderer.

I have previously blogged about school shootings, after Sandy Hook, when I worked in a day school.

I have previously been horrified by school shootings.

But this time I felt something odd. Yes, I was terrified that my best friend wasn’t going to make it, seeing as how she is the type (an educator) to throw herself in front of her beloved students. As an educator and a camp person, I can say that we all would throw ourselves in front of your children to save them.  

But it was more that I was terrified that I felt like — sure, the next school shooting is happening at my best friend’s workplace, a scant few miles from my childhood home. And the next one could be at another school with people whom I love. Or not. It doesn’t matter — everybody in a school is somebody’s somebody.

And of COURSE there will be a next shooting.

So that’s it. I’m done with thoughts and prayers. I am mad as hell, and I refuse to be complacent. I’m coming for you, legislators. Because every person is an entire world. And to save one person is to save an entire world, as the Jewish saying goes.

I am not returning to Florida for my best friend’s funeral because she’s lucky. But I am aware that this could’ve been a eulogy. And this — this is not a eulogy.

So I will end with a thought that I’m told was like a prayer when I posted it on Facebook: May these precious memories be for a blessing. And may the future shooters get the help they need — and not the weaponry they desire. And may our country get the laws it so desperately needs. Amen.

Sara Beth Berman

Sara Beth Berman (she/her/hers) is a writer, educator, consultant, and advocate. Some of Sara Beth's great loves include her family, Brooklyn, good NY pizza (and honestly, bad NY pizza), summer camp, podcasts, music, books, gender equity, salary transparency, Jewish cultural literacy education, and golf carts.

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