Going Numb: Gen-Z's Lifetime of Catastrophes

By Natalie Hancher

I had my first active shooter lockdown my freshman year, armed guards with automatic rifles I will never know the names of marching the halls. Classmates frantically searched the internet for any news or notification with our school’s name in the headline. For hours, our high school, plus the neighboring middle and elementary school, sat in the dark, both literally and metaphorically. To this day, I still don’t know the true story of what happened that day — only rumors of the idea of what could’ve happened. Some students huddled together, crying over the idea of what might be going on, while others planned out what they would do if the shooter came knocking at our door. Ideas and words of comfort were passed back and forth until the suspect was caught. He was apprehended within the school day’s hours, having not hurt anyone, but other schools have not been so lucky. There were 318 school shootings between the school years of 2009 and 2019.

 

Unfortunately, this statistic isn’t much of a shock to any Gen Z student, given the amount of news alerts popping up daily about school shootings. When we were physically in school buildings, I don’t remember going more than a few weeks without a threat or news alerts from somewhere in the country. 

 

Along with news sources, social media has been like an extra parent to many, both with good and bad impacts. Most of us can’t remember a time without either right at our fingertips, because there wasn’t one. All these traumatizing events are pushed into our brains with a simple buzz of our phones.

 

On top of the terrorism threats that proved real through school shooters and lockdown drills, we were also born into the aftermath of 9/11. The devastating act of terrorism heightened security and fear among all in the U.S. There was never a time without that dreadful video of the towers falling being shown during school assemblies and classes.

 

Gen Z grew up in the ruins of 9/11, the midst of the Iraq war, and the 2008 recession. It feels like kids of the newest generation have gone through more catastrophic world events in our first 20 or so years of life than most other generations experienced in their first 20 years. Especially with the unexpected year that was 2020. Week after week, more COVID-19 cases emerge alongside unjust and untimely deaths, hate, and deceit. At some point, people become desensitized to all those things, and a lot of Gen Z did just that.

 

In simple terms, we’re numb.

 

Death after death and one history page in the making after another, we’ve become desensitized to it all. While big things are happening on the daily in the US and around the world, most of it just goes over our heads like it’s nothing. 

 

Just like within our own bodies, being numb helps ease the pain for a time, but it doesn’t stop the damage from being done. In order to halt that type of mindset and help ourselves grow, we must be informed and stay ready to help at any moment possible. Make an active effort to understand all the horrible things happening around us in the world, and take the time to feel them in full. Cry for the loss felt, and fight for it simultaneously. This is how we start to heal ourselves and the world.