(part 4 of The Anger Journey)
Triggers can be anything. An act or event that serves as a stimulus and initiates or precipitates a reaction or series of reactions, either emotional and/or physical.* We all subconsciously have them whether we know it or not and whether we like it or not.
Knowing my disdain for the Broward Sheriff’s department and their involvement before, during, and after the shooting, anytime I saw anything related to the department on the news, it acted as a trigger to my anger. After the shooting, many of the deputies who initially responded and did not enter the campus, resigned and went quietly away. They followed procedure but they knew their actions and lack of training for a school shooting angered our community. However, the two individuals who were at the forefront of the response, championed for their jobs and their retirement pension and benefits. They were front and center of the media with the majority of parents and the Parkland community calling for their resignation. They held to the belief that they were following procedure. A procedure that allowed the shooter to enter the school campus, go into a building and murder 17 people, wound 17 people, and traumatize not only the people in the building but also those who were on campus and a whole community, all within 6 minutes.
The physical location of Stoneman Douglas High School is in Parkland. And it is about 100 yards from the neighboring community, Coral Springs. Students who attend Stoneman are from both Parkland and the far north section of Coral Springs. Since Stoneman is in Parkland it is under the jurisdiction of the Broward County Sheriff. The Coral Springs Police Department was vastly different then the Broward Sheriff’s department. Parkland was a sleepy little bedroom community with little to no crime, except for speeding, so the deputies assigned to Parkland are usually retired police officers to help with school zone traffic, monitor schools, or to write tickets for speeding. Coral Springs is a much bigger city with much more crime. Their police officers are well trained, well prepared, and very responsive. They are the type of law enforcement who are prepared and take action. And they took action on February 14. After the shooting the majority of the Parkland community was calling to have Coral Springs Police Department to protect our students at Stoneman instead of the Broward Sheriff’s department.
By the time our students went back to school, the governor, Rick Scott, had called for the Florida State Police to come and protect our school. When we dropped off our student in the weeks after the shooting, we were met with fit, uniformed, sharp, and ready FSP officers. Just the sight of them was impressive and reassuring. And a couple of weeks later, we saw a new type of Broward Sheriff deputy - young, fit, alert and armed - not the typical deputies from Parkland.
After Florida elected a new governor, Ron DeSantis, the sheriff was removed from his position and a new interim sheriff was put in his place. The community breathed a sigh of relief.
I would love to tell you that the sheriff quietly went away, sought mental health help, established a fund to help victims, and worked to better school safety on a national level. But that did not happen. Instead he squeezed his way into the hospital rooms of the wounded victims, took photos, without parental consent, and used these photos as publicity because he wanted to get his job back. He later announced that he was going to start his campaign to run for sheriff.
The victims’ families and parents of Stoneman Douglas students could not believe the audacity of the sheriff who was know suing the governor for removing him and started campaigning for his old job.
In the meantime, my life started getting into a new routine with my new job and my student on summer break. We welcomed the relief of not going to Stoneman every day. My anger storm was bubbling underneath and while I knew I had to address the anger at some point with my counselor, I just wasn’t ready and I didn’t know when I’d be ready.
I watched the news before heading to work one morning and I saw the sheriff on television. I just wished he would go away. He was a trigger to me of the horrific shooting on February 14. I shut off the news and went to work but the anger followed me. After class my mind was still focused on my disdain for the Broward County Sheriff department when I saw a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s car pass in front of me.
All of a sudden hot tears formed in my eyes as I thought, “If only we moved to Palm Beach County instead of Broward County! My kid would have never been at Stoneman and if there was a shooting the Palm Beach deputies would have run into the building with their guns drawn!”
As I turned and started driving, I heard myself let out gut wrenching sounds as I drove. My anger shell was beginning to break and I couldn't stop it. Without realizing, I passed the deputy and realized my speed. I quickly changed lanes to pull over to compose myself and then saw the red lights behind me. I finished pulling over.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff deputy walked to my passenger window and I rolled it down.
“I’m sorry officer. I’m very emotional right now and I didn’t realize my speed,” I said as I pulled out my license with my shaking hand.
“I didn’t pull you over for speed. I pulled you over because you didn’t signal when you changed lanes so quickly,” he replied.
By this time I was heaving sobs and tears were rolling down my face. And the officer asked if I was alright.
“I’m sorry. I’m a parent of a Stoneman Douglas student and when I saw your car all I could think was that you would have run into the building to help those kids and to stop the shooter. They didn’t run in! The Broward deputies didn’t run in!”
“Ma’am, was your student a victim?” he asked.
“No, he was in locked in a room in the building facing the 1200 building. He heard the shots,” I answered. By this time the officer was leaning into my car. I took his hand and held it.
I looked into his eyes and asked, “You would have run into the building right?”
“Yes mam. I would have run into the building no matter what protocol was in place. I would have gone in there to rescue kids and kill the shooter,” he replied looking into my eyes.
I quietly whispered, “Thank you,” as we held hands.
“Ma’am, are you going to be okay?” he asked as we withdrew our hands.
“Yes, I’m headed to my counselor’s office for my weekly appointment and she’ll know what to do. I’ll drink some water from my bottle, compose myself and then I’m good to drive.”
“Okay. I’m not going to give you a ticket today but please drive careful and remember to use your signal when changing lanes.” He paused, then continued, “Ma’am, I’m sorry you and your family were part of that awful experience.”
Before pulling back into traffic, I texted my counselor to let her know what happened and to be prepared when I arrived.
Come back next week and I’ll share what my counselor and I discovered as we peeled back the layers to find the root of my anger.
Friends, triggers are real and can take you right back to the place of the trauma or event. The five senses – sight, smell, sound, taste, touch – all play into triggers. Some responses are great but other responses aren’t. Pay attention to what evokes a strong emotional response in you. Could it be a trigger to something bigger or an underlying emotion? It’s worth investigating.
Blessings to you my friends,
The Small Town Girl
*To read additional information about triggers, click here https://www.therelationshipprotocol.com/blog/what-are-emotional-triggers