Photo by Sharon Aron Baron.

By: Lonny Anger

In December 2002, I came home from work to my apartment on East 24th Street in Manhattan. I was greeted by my dog wearing a T-shirt that read “I’m going to be a big sister”. 

It took me a few seconds to comprehend what was going on, but I finally understood that meant I was going to be a father.

Of a real live person. 

The usual fears went through me, such as “I don’t know how to handle children”, “What am I going to do if it’s a girl?”, and “How are we going to afford this?”. Additionally, the one year anniversary of 9/11 had recently passed and the concept of bringing another life into this world was incredibly scary.

However, over the next 9 months, those fears turned to excitement. 

Anticipation.

Elation.

Thrill.

Enthusiasm.

They became some of the best 9 months I ever experienced. 

Little did I know that baby I waited 9 months for would be part of history almost 15 years later, at one of the most tragic school shootings in history at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida where 17 people lost their lives.

She was one of the lucky ones.

She lived.

Now as I write this 9 months later, my feelings have gone in reverse. On 2/13, I had great excitement about the future. 

That changed on 2/14.

These last 9 months have been a combination of the following:

Agony.

Fear. 

Distress.

Concern. 

To represent the 9 months since the tragedy, here are 9 worthy discussion points:

FAMILIES OF THE VICTIMS

I have written about the families of victims in previous articles, and they still continue to amaze me. They do not need a 3,6, or 9 month reminder of what happened. This is a living nightmare for them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I have gotten to know many of them, and I am still in awe of their strength every day. The work they have done to make sure that our children and families are safer from another catastrophe, is so greatly appreciated. They have turned their grief into action, and every person reading this should be grateful that their unfortunate sacrifice will be to your benefit. They have changed laws, campaigned for politicians, and became activists.

They have been greatly supported, but also demonized.

There are times when I am driving to work, that I cry just thinking about the pain and torture I see on their faces.

That I hear in their voices.

That I read in their posts.

I look at my children and family members differently because of them, and do not take a day for granted anymore. 

SOCIAL MEDIA

Social Media has been an extreme blessing, as well as an absolute curse. I have enjoyed using social media to catch up with old friends and family – I love seeing my friends from elementary school as adults, I enjoy reminiscing with my friends from high school, I’m ecstatic seeing that my college friends have become productive members of society when there didn’t seem like there was any hope 30 years ago (See you guys in February!), and love staying in contact with friends I have made in my former 25+ media career.

I love it all.

But then something changed.

It became a large platform for people shouting their political views to the world.

And candidly, it’s aggravating.

It has become a black hole of debate, with everyone posting articles that support their view or use examples of what the other party did when confronted with something the party you support is accused of.

For most, there is one major issue that causes them to vote Republican or Democrat.

It’s the one issue they can’t get past.

It’s like buying a home. There are items that may not be as important to you, and others are deal breakers. For instance, when I bought my first apartment in Manhattan, the deal breaker for me was the windows had to face a street and not the avenue. (Less noise.) In order for everything to work, I gave up having a larger kitchen and bathroom.

Politics are the same way.

For some, it’s abortion.

For some, it’s guns.

For some, it’s the economy. 

Whatever it is, it is an individual decision, and what is right for you may not be right for someone else.

We all have people on our social media accounts (average of 10 percent of your friend list) who are OOTFM. (Out Of Their F’n Minds.)

And they are both Democrats and Republicans.

These are your friends who post 97 percent of the time memes about politicians, or repost articles bashing the other party, or call the other party Nazis. When confronted with something their party did, they show examples of how the other party did it worse. Their hatred for the other side is a personal vendetta, and for some strange reason – putting it out on social media on a consistent basis makes them feel like they are accomplishing something.

Their posts are liked by only a few, and likely by the same people. No matter what side they support, they will create the narrative as to why it happened and justify it.

It’s like parents watching kids’ sports. Whatever the call is, you take the side of your team. If it’s a call against your team, you are screaming at the umpire. If it’s in your favor, you tell the umpire what a great call it was.

It’s rare that you see it from the other team’s perspective.

Then the debate turns into name calling, bullying, etc. – I’m not really sure how all of these people find time to do this? Or what kind of satisfaction they get from doing it? 

If it appears that I am describing you, know that you are free to post whatever you wish on social media – Just remember that the majority of your connection list thinks of you as OOTFM. 

Daily

Every time you post.

The one thing that bothers me the most are the attacks on families of the victims and the Parkland kids from March For Our Lives. 

I am highly sensitive to this.

I’m not sure why I take it so personally. I have been criticized both privately and publicly on social media because of my writing, but it doesn’t bother me whatsoever – it only bothers me when it happens to these two factions of people.

Maybe it’s because I do not understand how anyone can attack any of the families when they sacrificed more than you ever will. I don’t care what they say, how they say it, to who, about whom – in my book, they get a pass for everything. Why? 

Because I know that their actions as a result of their loss, regardless if I agree or disagree with them, will keep my children safer. 

As for attacking the MFOL kids – there is a reason why prisoners who attack children and the elderly are less respected in jail.

It’s a sign of weakness.

I don’t buy the argument that “They’re in the public eye now, so they are subject to criticism” debate. 

If you don’t like what they are doing/saying, that’s ok. Offer alternative solutions or suggestions.

Get on a bus and travel around the country and promote what you think is the right way to handle the issues.

It’s not OK to attack them personally. 

SUPREME COURT NOMINATION HEARINGS

I have never been so embarrassed for our country than during the Supreme Court Hearings. 

It was a disgrace from all sides.

The entire world was laughing at us, and they probably still are.

I believe Christine Blasey Ford. (Reminder I am a registered Republican.) In my mind, this has nothing to do with politics. 

But that is what it turned into.

No one on either side cared about this woman whatsoever.

The Democrats line of questioning was outrageous, and the Republicans response was just as bad.

The only good that came out of it is that it opened up a dialogue with my children concerning the accusations. 

I am not concerned for my sons being falsely accused. Why? The percentage of false accusations hover around 10 percent. I’ll play those odds all day long. And if they are falsely accused, I’ll support them any way I can.

My daughter, on the other hand, I worry about every minute of the day. She knows not to take anything from anyone, not to leave drinks unattended, and never be alone.

I told her she needs to tell me if someone touched her without consent, that I would believe her, and assist in handling it with the authorities. If for some reason she is not believed, I promised her I would take care of it, as long as she promised me that she would visit me in jail.

PRESIDENT

I believe that whoever is President, should be respected. For instance, there were policies from the President Obama administration I disagreed with. However, I respected him as our leader.

I believe the same with President Trump.

I think he has done a good job with the economy. (Yes, I know the naysayers will say he inherited an already strong economy.) I’ll give him credit for trying to establish a relationship with our adversaries, even though I could do without his antagonizing of our allies.

But he has got to do a better job in several other areas.

Words matter.

If they don’t, please tell me why the Secret Service felt it was necessary to investigate me after an article I wrote a few months ago? I was deemed not a threat, but clearly something I wrote touched a nerve within someone in the administration. Note that I told them if this was done with the shooter, we wouldn’t be sitting here.

The leader sets the tone. What he/she does allows for others to follow. 

Early in my career before I became a manager, I was in a staff meeting with a high-profile client – I was about 23 or 24 years old. Whenever I was in these types of meetings, I always tried to demonstrate to everyone that I was the smartest person in the room.

I blame it on my immaturity and insecurity at the time.

My goal was to ask questions that I knew they couldn’t answer, or at least had to think about their answer. 

During this meeting, I challenged the client with some of their facts and positioning statements in an egotistical and arrogant way. At the end of the meeting, the client absolutely tore into me in front of all of my colleagues. 

I was shocked, because this never had backfired before.

I didn’t know how to respond, and someone got our manager who had already left the meeting.

My manager took me into my office and I said to him “I want you to fire me because I am going to kick his ass, and I don’t want you to get into trouble”. (Read my previous statement of immaturity.)

He said “Lonny, you are a leader on this team even though you don’t have the title. What you do allows other people to do the same. You need to figure out a way to ask your questions better, and act like the leader you were meant to be”.

It was at that moment I realized that I needed to change my ways. I eventually apologized to the client (He did not accept, and proceeded to continue his tirade), and modified my ways accordingly and was eventually promoted.

My point here is that having a great economy does not allow you free rein to act however you want. He needs to act more Presidential, as everyone is taking their cue from him. Act like you are representing everyone, not just your supporters.

Is it fair to blame him for the Pittsburgh shooting, or the anti-Semitic sentiment going on right now? Probably not.

My question is – has his rhetoric HELPED any of these situations? Sure, he has denounced what happened – but can anyone out there say in all honesty that anything he has done regarding this specific issue has helped the cause? There is no way anyone can, because it hasn’t.

Was President Trump responsible for the beheading of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi? No, not directly.

However, it is not unreasonable to assume that Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman knew President Trump’s disdain for the media, so he never anticipated killing a journalist that was outspoken against his government would be met with such opposition from the US.

This is my point: aPresident can be praised when he has done something well, and addressed when things can improve.

Those that constantly vilify him or endlessly praise him lose all credibility in my book.

Until both sides recognize that, we will never have any harmony.

SCHOOL SAFETY

The one issue that all can agree on is school safety. (Now how school safety is improved is a continued matter for debate.) Most of the victims’ families initiatives revolve around this concern.

I thought it would get better since 2/14.

It has not.

We had the Guardian Angels outside MSD for several months after the shooting, which made all of Parkland/Coral Springs feel more secure. One of the Guardian Angels made a social post about drugs in and around the high school – next thing you know, he was dismissed. I find this troubling because one of the issues concerning the shooting was that the school board tried to limit the amount of reported troubled behavior incidences, thereby allowing the shooter to slip through the cracks. 

From an optics standpoint, it appears they are trying to do the same thing here.

Drugs in high school? Find me a high school in the US that doesn’t have a drug issue. The drug problem was widely known at MSD. It has been proven that at least one of the victims was killed because he was unable to access the bathroom door. Why? It was locked because of the drug problem on campus – something the school, board, and BSO haven’t done much about.

The irony is that when I moved here, I heard that a very high-level person in the sheriff’s office family members were the biggest drug dealers in the school. (DISCLAIMER – I have absolutely no proof of this, I am only sharing with you what the rumor was.) 

The department that failed the students (school board), removed an entity (Guardian Angels) providing school safety that was supposed to be handled by BSO (that was previously rumored to have a high level employee family member involved in selling drugs), for calling out the drug problem.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Since most of you have not been involved in a school shooting – and hopefully you never will – let me give you a glimpse into what it is like to go to a parent teacher conference in today’s environment.

I went to my youngest son’s parent teacher conference at his elementary school. The new protocol is to have the teacher meet you at the office and take you up to the classroom, but other than the SRO (school resource officer) outside directing traffic, it is relatively easy access for anyone to go into the school first thing in the morning. 

As I walked through the hallway, I imagined a shooter present. With an AR-15, he could easily take out 50-75 kids. Some can barricade themselves on the block wall outside the doors, or run around the side – but I would imagine sheer panic would step in and take over so there would be many casualties.

As we got to his classroom, I noticed the door window is smaller than I remembered it. Less opportunity for a shooter to hit students, I thought.

As the teacher began speaking about my son, my mind drifted to the angle a shooter would have to aim through that window – and which kids would be hit. 

Depending on the angle, a shooter could reasonably take out half of the kids based on where they are sitting. 

My mind could not stop racing at the fact that these kids are no more safer today than they were just a few months ago.

As we concluded, I walked over to the bathroom, opened the door, and took visual measurements of the space. I then assessed the size of the students as they were walking in to determine how many of those students would be able to fit inside the bathroom. Most would, but not all.

That was my parent teacher conference. I hope yours is different.

UNTIL IT HAPPENS TO YOU, YOU DON’T CARE (AS MUCH)

This is the harsh reality. I have said this before, but unless you have experienced something like this, you will not be motivated to do anything about it. Also, your opinion on the subject will likely be completely different.

For instance, I can assure you that the families of the victims of the Pittsburgh Synagogue massacre and the Thousand Oaks Shootings look at the entire situation very differently now. What they thought was important may no longer be, and the safety of loved ones in religious institutions or retail locations is now more paramount.

A lot of the negativity I see on social media are from people outside of Parkland, who have not experienced a tragedy like this – yet, they comment as if they did. Even the negativity I see within Parkland, the majority of those did not have a student at MSD.

Sadly, until a mass shooting happens to someone’s child that is in a position to make changes, nothing will happen. 

This was the premise of my previous article and subsequent visit from the Secret Service – until it happens to one of their children – no real change will occur.

I urge all of you to imagine your child being in a school.

I want you to imagine your brother or sister in a bar.

I want you to imagine your parents in a place of worship.

Now I want you to imagine a shooting taking place, and you don’t know whether those loved ones are dead or alive.

Now respond to the gun violence and mass shooting debate.

I promise you it will be different if it happens to you.

GUNS, MENTAL HEALTH, PARENTING

This is the part (Guns) where I lose about half my readers.

Before I get into this topic, let me address with you the comments (Paraphrased) that I read anytime I write about guns.

“You aren’t taking my guns”

“You aren’t violating my second amendment rights”

“No one tells me I can’t protect my family”

“I am donating more money to the NRA”

“There are already enough gun laws in place – they just need to be followed”

“It’s not the guns – do you ban all cars if someone gets hit by one?”

“It’s mental illness, not the guns”

“Look at Chicago and California – they have the strictest gun laws in the Country and they still have a problem”

“There were mass shootings under Obama”

“You are distracting everyone with guns from the real issues”

“A good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun”

I’m sure there are more, but you get my point.

Trust me, there is no shortage of blame to go around for our tragedy. MSD, Broward County School Board, Broward Sheriff’s Office, FBI, shooter’s mom, People that took the shooter in, the list goes on.

There is absolutely no reason that guns can’t be one of the issues that need to be addressed.

Not the only issue.

Just one of them.

I don’t own guns. I likely never will. My handwriting sucks, and I don’t have a steady enough hand to shoot a gun. I would probably kill someone else other than the intended target.

As I have stated before, I look at common sense gun control the same way I view going to the airport.

After 9/11, getting on a plane got stricter. Did it eliminate bombings on planes? No. 

But it certainly mitigated it.

Is it inconvenient to the 99.9 percent of us who don’t plan on bombing a plane? Having to take your shoes, jackets, etc off and taking out your laptop? Yes, it’s a big pain in the ass. Long Lines. Have to get there much earlier. 

But I would trade that off to be to be safer any day of the week.

99.9 percent of registered gun owners are responsible, just like the fliers who don’t plan on blowing up a plane. Would they be inconvenienced because they have to do a more extensive background check, wait a bit longer to get their guns, etc? Yes. 

Will that stop mass shootings? No. Will it help? Research says it will, so I am willing to try.

I asked for a meeting with several important people in previous articles, because I am quite confident as difficult as this gun issue is – it is solvable. If everyone took a step back, listened to each other, made some compromises – they would be amazed at what could be accomplished.

Certainly mental health is an issue, but parenting is also a big issue.

There are a lot of shitty parents out there with “Not my Child Syndrome”. My wife is a combination FBI, CIA, stealth ninja, and forensic scientist rolled into one. She watches my kids’ every move. She monitors their social media (older kids), friends, cell phone, and every day coming and goings. We both drive our kids places, with their friends in the car.

You can learn a tremendous amount by just listening during those drives.

Maybe my kids are obnoxious, rude, disrespectful, little assholes. Maybe they have a “Finsta” or hidden Snapchat account and post inappropriate images and write disturbing text on their posts. Perhaps they vape, drink, smoke pot, use coke, and cyberbully other kids that we are unaware of. 

With my wife as the primary caregiver, I’ll take my chances that the things I mention above are not happening. So far, no reason to believe our kids will become mass shooters – but that doesn’t mean she won’t continue making sure that our children will continue to be productive, respectful members of society.

I have already identified kids that I don’t like my kids hanging out with. 

Don’t ask me if I am talking about you or your kid.

If you have to ask yourself, I probably am.

If you really want to know, take a look at their cellphone or social media account activity. Look at the friends they are hanging out with.

Then you will really have your answer.

Now maybe my kids are the ones you don’t want your kids hanging out with.

If they are doing some of the things I mention above, then I don’t blame you.

But that would be on me.

If they are doing things I am unaware of, that is ultimately my responsibility.

The bottom line if that if you have an angry, depressed, withdrawn kid that posts inappropriate things on social media and plays video games all day, go see a therapist or go to a medical doctor to be evaluated. Perhaps there is real mental health issue going on where they need help.

Just don’t buy them a gun.

FORGETTING

There is a saying that “Success Relaxes You”. I believe that to be true. When things are going well professionally, sometimes people may not work as hard. In sports, if a team is leading, sometimes they tend to not be as aggressive.

In the case of school shootings, “success” is defined as not having one for a while.

I write for many reasons.

It’s therapeutic.

Other people seem to enjoy it.

It’s my way of giving back to our broken community.

It’s a technique to instigate conversation about important topics.

Mostly I write because I don’t want people forgetting what happened on 2/14. 

However, I realized that until we fix the entire mass shooting epidemic, it will be almost impossible to forget.

It’s happening on too regular basis.

Someone reading this article will be part of the next mass shooting.

Maybe as a parent.

Maybe as a survivor.

Maybe as a friend.

Maybe as a relative.

Maybe as a victim.

MORTALITY

Sooner or later, we all have to face our own mortality. Some of us are lucky, such as my father, who just turned 90 years old last week. (Happy Birthday, Dad – Love you!)

No one knows when our time is up; we can only live life as if today is our last day.

I don’t like to fly. I always had this strange sensation that I would die in a plane crash.

I no longer believe that.

Based on what has been happening in our country, I now believe I will die by gunfire.

I have taken steps to minimize the impact.

About 20 years ago, I used to train at a boxing gym. I haven’t laced up a pair of gloves since that time, but I have recently begun training again.

Why? Because if I am going down, I’m not going down without a fight. 

I know that my fists won’t do a damn thing against the barrel of a gun, but at least I feel like I am doing something.

Additionally, I have reevaluated my life insurance policies. Although modifying/adding policies at my age makes the premiums skyrocket, it will be worth every penny so my family doesn’t have to set up a Go Fund Me page when I get shot.

When I go anywhere, specifically in crowded places, I always scope out the exits and try to assume who the next potential shooter can be. 

I look at their faces, body language, and apparel based on the climate of the day.

If anything looks off, I watch even closer. 

In anticipation of being shot, I hope I have the courage to be as brave as Coaches Hixon, Feis, and Beigel.

I hug my kids as much as I can in honor of the 17 Victims’ Families who can’t.

And, if I don’t make it home tomorrow.

This – is 9 months later in Parkland. 

Lonny Anger is a “proud” Parkland resident and father of three children including his daughter who attends Marjory Stoneman Douglas. He is a licensed general contractor and owner of Merrick Industrial Management Corp, a commercial construction firm specializing in hospital and healthcare facilities interior renovation.  Anger serves as vice president/media relations for Shine MSD, which was formed by Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Students after the shooting to support victims’ families and healing the Parkland community through the arts. He also enjoys volunteering in the city as a baseball and flag football coach. 

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