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#IfIDieInASchoolShooting ‘it’s because I live in America’ and other sad realities

Students and teachers began tweeting with the hashtag, #IfIDieInASchoolShooting. Many called for gun reform. (Video: Amber Ferguson/The Washington Post)

If Andrew Schneidawind dies in a school shooting, he won’t get to finish his animated TV series, nor will he see his sister again.

If Michael Pincus dies in a school shooting, he will never graduate high school, get a driver’s license or finally learn how to ride a bike, and if @cathgiselle dies in a school shooting, she won’t get to see her parents or her family or her dog, who will wonder where she went.

That is the conversation that American high school and college students have aired over Twitter the past three days, with a distinctly American hashtag that has disturbed some and moved others: #IfIDieInASchoolShooting. They have finished the thought either with political statements, asking that their bodies be dumped on the steps of the White House or outside the National Rifle Association, or with an awful frankness, ticking off the people and markedly adolescent things they will miss.

The social media movement follows the school shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas, which left 10 dead Friday, the worst school shooting since the one just three months ago, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., which left 17 dead.

Some, adults mostly, called the hashtag a “sad reality of America,” but others, kids mostly, said this was already something they have thought about but were now just saying aloud on the Internet. More than anything, the hashtag recalled the unsettling resignation of Santa Fe student Paige Curry, who with her head down and her brown hair tucked behind one ear told a reporter hours after the mass shooting that she wasn’t shocked it happened in her school.

Her 24-second viral clip sent a chill up the collective spine of America.

“It’s been happening everywhere,” she told the ABC-13 reporter. “I felt — I always kind of felt like eventually it was going to happen here, too.”

Andrew Schneidawind thinks about it every day. Schneidawind, an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Mary Washington, is the architect of the viral hashtag. On Sunday afternoon, he tweeted, “I’m gonna try and get a hashtag trending called #IfIdieInASchoolShooting,” inviting others to follow. Since then, thousands have.

He told Teen Vogue in an interview Monday that he was 12 years old when a gunman stormed Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 and killed 26 people, 20 of them children, and that every school shooting since then has deeply affected him. He thought Sandy Hook should have been “the turning point.”

“The reality of it is, I have this fear everyday,” he told Teen Vogue. “I’m not as paranoid as some people, but still, while I’m listening to my professors lecture, I plan escape routes in my head.”

He said he planned to print out some of the most powerful #IfIDieInASchoolShooting tweets.  Then, he said, he is going to mail them to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and other lawmakers who accept money from the NRA or who oppose gun-law changes.

“These are real people telling the world what they’ll leave behind,” he told the magazine. “It might make them feel bad, and it will make them uncomfortable. But that’s the point.”

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