When I was just a hair older than the kids in the latest school shooting, a train hit a van carrying ten teenagers where I grew up in Mineola, New York. Nine of them were killed. I had gone to school with some of them. You can see The New York Times story from March 14, 1982 here. Two were good friends with the boyfriend I kissed under the tree in Traveling at the Speed of Bike. It took three funeral homes to have room for all the wakes, and everyone I knew made the rounds of all of them. We stood on line together, we hugged, we cried.
The dangerous conditions of the train crossing continued to exist for another sixteen years. I saw two now-raised crossings when I rode a bike around Mineola while working on the epilogue to my book recently, when I went down the streets of the boys I knew who were killed that night. As you can see (pictured above), some of the crossings are still at grade level.
Words are inadequate to say much more right now, except that watching all these kids talk about burying their peers brought back some deep feels for me, and I wasn’t even in that van — I didn’t even experience the terror. These kids have experienced a trauma I can’t even imagine. What they are doing by speaking out, by organizing, is nothing short of mind-blowing.
To any loved ones of those kids from that night in March 1982, and from every other avoidable tragedy, I want you to know they have never been forgotten. I want you to know that many people in this world, including this latest group of kids, are trying to right so, so many wrongs. I want you to know my generation hasn’t given up its responsibility to leave a better world, either. We are trying.