There have been 22 school shootings in the United States since the start of 2019.
That’s the kind of number that the brain instinctively recoils from. But it’s also a hideously undeniable fact, one that the kids in America’s schools right now have been forced to internalize in a way that can be hard for adults of an earlier, less violent era to grasp. Hence, presumably, the above video from advocacy group Sandy Hook Promise, which attempts—with cheerful monologues, smiling children, and a steady escalation of dread—to depict the ways that violence can intrude upon and taint the regular school day routine, and even, in its own grim way, become part of that routine itself. It is expertly acted, upsettingly crafted, and a vicious punch to the gut. It’s the sort of video that first makes you think, “I wish I hadn’t watched that,” and then, immediately, “I wish this was a world where a video like that didn’t need to be watched.”
“Back-To-School Essentials” is the latest and most ambitious program from the non-profit organization, named for the 2012 killings at a Connecticut elementary school. (You may or may not remember it; it was, after all, literally hundreds of school shootings ago.) The group’s goals are holistic in nature: By raising awareness of the commonplace ways school shootings have infiltrated American life, they hope to push people to work on solutions that prevent the conditions that lead to mass violence in the first place. The group’s stated goals do not, as it happen, include comprehensive gun control measures, although if you can watch the above video and not feel the utter horror caused by America’s rampant epidemic of gun violence deep in your bones, you’re made of sterner, and far colder, stuff than us.