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Garcia: ‘A subtle back-to-school commercial started up, and it slowly got darker and darker.’

Graciela Garcia

Back-to-School season is seen as this fun, exciting time for children to cross off things on their shopping lists and show off their new backpack or crafty supplies. Back-to-school shopping was one of my favorite things to do as a kid and something I did every year with my dad. 

I remember scrolling through Twitter and seeing “Sandy Hook PSA” trending and was interested in seeing what it was. I’ve seen PSAs from the Sandy Hook Promise before and braced myself for anything that might be triggering. For those who have watched it, I think we all went into it with that mindset, but really didn’t expect to watch what we did. A subtle back-to-school commercial started up, and it slowly got darker and darker. 

It starts off seemingly normal, with children showing off their new items they picked up for the school year. However, the messages grow more and more into the bigger picture. You can see people running in the background as one student explains his new headphones, then an actual student running and talking about his new sneakers, quickly from a student using a skateboard to break the windows so he and others can escape, to students having a scissor and color pencils to protect themselves in their classrooms and so forth. The scene that really took me was the ending as a young girl hides in the bathroom stall, texting her mother that she loves her and saying she got a new phone for the school year with tears streaming down her face and the sound of a door open as she shuts her eyes and tries to silence herself. 

At the end of it, I felt breathless. It was extremely hard to watch and there was a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. But at the same time, I knew that’s why they did it. Too many times we see PSAs around “seeing the signs before it starts” or “enforcing stricter gun laws” but never anything like the viral PSA that everyone is talking about right now. 

It was extremely raw and straight-forward. It didn’t sugarcoat and it didn’t do too much. It put the viewer right in the middle of these school shootings that have become an epidemic for the last 10 years and more. You feel scared, you want to help, and it kind of makes you tear up as you watch. It hits people differently of course, but it definitely hits everyone. There’s no way it’s easy to watch it, but as a viewer, we have to realize people, children and young teenagers, had to go through this; including their family and close friends. It might be a PSA for some, but it’s a fear ringing through some parents’ heads every day as they send their child off to school. 

“It’s a hard watch, but it should never be an easy watch,” said Nicole Hockley, the co-founder of Sandy Hook Promise, who lost her 6-year-old son, Dylan, during the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting that happened in Newton, Conn. in 2012. She explained in an interview with NowThis News, “Back-to-school is not this rosy time period anymore. There are more and more acts of violence happening in schools and school shootings… gun violence is not pretty. School shootings are not something that should be glamorized because we just continue to be desensitized to it.” 

This is very true. We hear of a new mass shooting maybe every month. People are dying of gun violence outside of schools almost every single day, and there has been no change from our current administration, who has not seen the outcry of American citizens just wanting to keep their children and loved ones safe. 

Photo Courtesy NPR

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