I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
April 8, 2023
For more than two decades, The Covenant School has been woven into the background of my everyday life.
Nestled in the woods of one of Nashville’s wealthiest neighborhoods, you probably wouldn’t even notice it unless you happen to know someone working or attending school there. It’s small – only kindergarten through sixth grade – but a popular option for parents who want a cozier experience for their kids before they enrolling them in one of the larger private schools in town. I pass it every time I go shopping at the mall or visit the doctor’s office.
So it felt very personal when the news emerged last week that a shooter had gone inside the school and killed three adults and three children. When I heard what had happened, my mind tried to block out the details, but that soon proved to be impossible as my Facebook feed filled with posts from teachers who were inside the school when the shooting occurred, parents with children now terrified to go to school and begging to be homeschooled, grieving friends who had close personal ties to the victims and their families, and the many who’ve attended one or more of the funerals held over the last week. Red ribbons decorate mailboxes and fences and gates across the city now, honoring the victims and letting their families and friends know that we’re grieving with them. As a city, we are shocked. We are sad. We are angry. We are exhausted.
For parents and students here in Nashville, it has hit home in a new way that this could have happened in any of our schools. Of course, we’ve always known this; we’ve been painfully reminded of it every time another school shooting has happened in another city, another state. But now, we’re seeing more than media coverage. Now, we are witnesses to the grief, the fear, the shock, and the loss of innocence that happens in a community after lives are mercilessly taken. And for our children in particular, it has been too much to take. They’re tired of active shooter drills. They’re tired of worrying about whether their school will be next. They’re tired of having to wonder whether their school is a safe place to spend their days. And this week, they let the world know it.
At 10:13 am on Monday, a week to the day after The Covenant School shooting occurred, an estimated seven thousand students walked out of class across Nashville and made their way to the Tennessee State Capitol to protest gun violence and call for stricter gun laws. I was waiting in my car outside my son’s high school that morning so that he and his friends could join them.
At the rally, students of all ages carried handmade signs and chanted things like “This is democracy” and “No more silence, end gun violence.” Their faces were raw with emotion. Some cried, others seemed barely able to contain their anger and frustration.
They were all incredibly heartfelt and sincere — Many of them had clearly put a lot of time and effort into their signs and what was on them. They shouted the protest chants with enthusiasm. They believed they could make a difference.
Standing among them, I felt a flood of emotions. I was proud to be there with them in that moment, proud to see so many children and teenagers taking a stand for what they believed in. I was furious that despite the outrageous statistics on gun violence in America and particularly in schools, we can’t seem to get even the most basic laws passed requiring background checks and outlawing automatic weapons.
I was heartbroken for my community, and especially for the Covenant School parents and former students who came to the rally to show their support. At one point, the organizers shouted out the names of each school that’s had a mass shooting over the past few years and the crowd shouted back “Never again!” after each one. “The Covenant School” is now part of that chant. That got me. I still can’t think about that moment without crying.
Plenty of moms showed up for the rally – I’m sure they’d brought their older kids, just like I had, and then melted into the crowd once they were there, letting the teenagers do their thing. I think now that we were the secret security guards of the event, standing on the periphery with our signs held high, watching everything, ready to step in and keep these kids safe if any shit started going down.
7,000 Nashville students made me think otherwise.
Because these kids turned out in massive numbers, the national media and the White House took notice. Because of these kids, three Tennessee legislators were inspired to take a stand with them inside the Capitol and protest for gun reform legislation on the House floor.
Because of these kids, I, along with several thousand others, was inspired to come back three days later and protest outside the Capitol the day House Republicans voted to expel two of the Tennessee Three from the legislature for their lawful protest.
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And still, it was the students who had the biggest impact that day, remaining inside the Capitol for 12 hours, never relenting, making their voices heard as legislators slow walked their way through the agenda.
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It was the students who held a die-in on the lobby floor after Rep. Justin Pearson and Rep. Justin Jones were expelled, lying on the ground for 14 minutes – the amount of time the shooter was inside The Covenant School before being killed by police. It was a powerful moment that was shared around the world.
I hope my son and his friends and all of the kids who protested with them understand that they truly did make a difference this week, and that they can make a difference in the future. I’m so grateful to them for reminding me and reminding our entire nation that we can make a difference, too. I’m profoundly disappointed in my state legislators, but I can’t help but think that their actions have only fueled the fire of a nation that’s so tired of school shootings and perhaps is now ready to start taking steps to solve the problem.
It’s easy to feel defeated and dejected right now in Tennessee — May our children be reminders to all of us to Never. Give. Up.