"17": One Parent's Powerful Poem About the Florida High School Shooting by Mary Pat King

Poems Headlines
6 years ago

"17": One Parent's Powerful Poem About the Florida High School Shooting

It was a normal day in the bleachers as our girls played softball. Normal, until I heard, “Oh no. It’s 17 now.” 

We continued “normal” while my mind raced: 17 parents sitting in bleachers, pews, tables; 17 parents holding newborns, guiding steps, coloring dreams; 17 parents saying “byes” at preschool, middle school, high school. Seventeen parents whose “normal” was devastated, whose hearts shattered to dust on Valentine’s Ash Wednesday.

My mind raced to poetry. Poetry paints humanity, and humanity must be the collective focus from our respective bleachers. I know we all agree – this isn’t normal. We can’t let this be normal. We must be one team focused on our kids’ safety.


It was
17 mornings like any other
17 snoozes and then another
17 breakfasts on the go
17 “byes” promising “hello”
17 bodies in sleepy motion
17 minds embracing commotion

But then
17 bullets destroyed sweet dreams
17 bullets fueled our screams
17 bullets detonated young lives
17 bullets stabbed hearts like knives
17 bullets swelled our tears
17 bullets rippled our fears

So now
17 families are stunned tonight
17 moms can't hold them tight
17 “byes” will sting the air
17 homes with an empty chair
17 bullets battled the God we trust
17 hearts returned to dust

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Elisa Schmitz
Oh, Mary Pat King . You have me in tears. Thank you for expressing so beautifully and powerfully the pain and heartache of what happened in Florida. What could happen anywhere. I am grateful you shared this with us. We are so happy to have you as part of our tribe, thank you. xoxo
Mary Pat King
Thank you Elisa! I'm hopeful future blogs won't be from a place of deep sadness.
Donna John
Such beautiful words from such a tragedy. Thank you for sharing this with us, and welcome to the tribe.
Gina Pomering
Beautiful. Makes me cry. Wish we never had to write them but thank you for sharing.
Mary Pat King
I keep thinking the same thing. Thank you
Mary Pat King
Thank you, Kristan!
Ann Marie Patitucci
Mary Pat King : This is heartbreakingly beautiful. Thank you for sharing your gift with us. Welcome to our community of writers. We’re thrilled to have you.
Mary Pat King
Thank you for your patient, but persistent encouragement. :)
Pam McCormick
Heartbreaking yet beautiful. Thank you.
Jan Mostrom
This is so so amazing and beautiful and tragic and sad. Thank you so much Mary Pat King I am so sad for those families, and for our country that we are once again here.
Mary Pat King
Thank you! This is when I know our society is still so full of empathy. We need empathy now more than ever to fuel listening to each other, willingness to have hard but productive conversations, and perseverance for change.
Linda Mencini-Gamiere
Amazing and heartfelt poem. I just can’t get this tragedy out of my head. Writing poetry helps me vent my feelings. I write what others feel but are unable to express on paper. Would it be okay if I shared my poem about the FL school shooting with you?
Mary Pat King
Yes, please do!!! Thank you!
Linda Mencini-Gamiere
A Tribute

Oh my Lord, what has this gunman done?
He took our daughters and our sons
Seventeen of our children will never see tomorrow
There is a hole in our hearts and so much sorrow

On this day that is supposed to be filled with love and joy
Along came an armed and dangerous 19-year-old boy
Who are you to decide their lives weren’t worth living?
Now live with the guilt, there will be no forgiving

There were heroes that selflessly tried to save the young
Those heroes will never be left unsung
Brothers and sisters are now with our Lord above
They will never again hear how much they were loved

We pray to you Lord every morning, noon and night
That not another family or friend has to feel this plight
Hold your children and give them kisses everyday
It’s God’s mystery why these angels were taken away

Written by Linda Gamiere
Elisa Schmitz
Your poem is beautiful, Linda Mencini-Gamiere . I'm so glad you shared it. We would love it if you would submit it as its own post on 30Seconds, so we can share it more widely. Here is the link to submit it: 30seconds.com/mom/submit-tip/n... Thank you so much for sharing your powerful words with us!
Mary Pat King
Oh Linda -- that's just beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing! We need more poetry -- poetry gets to the heart so we can heal and restore hope. Love this and hope it inspires others to share their poetry or prayer on this page.
Mary Pat King
I just saw from my friends at Florida PTA that they are hosting candlelight vigils across the state on Monday, 2/19 at 7 p.m. ET. Other PTAs nationwide will be joining them. Here's the image with more info.
Elisa Schmitz
Thank you for posting this, Mary Pat King . I will be praying from Chicago!
Meredith Schneider
So beautifully written, so tragic and so sad 😞 my heart hurts for all the parents and loved ones left with that empty chair. Thank you Mary Pat King for sharing. ❤️
Mike Prochaska
Test resist to 50409 makes it so easy to write your congress person
Mary Pat King
DONE! And Tweeted! THANKS
Spell-It-Out Photos
So well said. So very sad.
Mary Pat King
The 17 funerals -- this week -- so sad. One of my connections has attended most of them and has been writing about each experience and I'm drawn into the stories of these children. Absolutely heart-breaking. But the empowerment of students to mobilize and speak out has been inspiring. And maybe -- just maybe? If we all voice how important this is to embrace as a collective leadership opportunity across aisles -- maybe we will see change.
Elisa Schmitz
The students speaking out is giving me hope that change may finally happen. Even baby steps forward would be welcome. Thank you for contributing to the positive momentum, Mary Pat King !
Stacey Roberts
If ever there was a poem, as beautiful as it is, should never have had to be written it is this one. The amount of gross negligence that allowed these children to be so violently murdered in cold blood is beyond comprehension. The fact the guy at the entrance to the movie theater is more responsible and thorough making sure no weapons get in, but someone like this psycho was able to walk in a school and unleash fire says how screwed up things are. One girl was shot 9 times! Our kids shouldn’t have to be taught to dive under desks or into a closet, they should have the same protection as if they’re going to the movie. For those of you who haven’t watched the meeting President Trump hosted, I suggest you do. So many valuable ideas and ways some administrators are already doing to keep their students safe we’re exchanged. In my personal opinion, putting a retired police offer and/or veterans who have the training that would stop a shooter before they could pull a weapon up to shoot is the best defense. Put one at every entrance to every school then some to protect kids when out on sports fields is the most expedient solution to hardened these targets. The targets being our kids. Forget the government, they’re a huge part that allowed this to happen. Band together as families and decide what and how your kids can be 100% protected and take it to the school boards and districts and scream and yell if that’s what it takes because it’s going to take more than what’s being done now.
Mary Pat King
Another school shooting yesterday. Heartbreaking. I do believe family voices advocating is our best solution! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts! ❤️
Jennifer Harmon
Thank you for your words. I will be reading them at a vigil in east Brunswick NJ tonight .
Elisa Schmitz
That is so wonderful, Jennifer Harmon . So glad you find Mary Pat King ’s words as powerful as I do. I’ll be thinking of you tonight at the vigil. Sending positive energy your way!
Mary Pat King
I’m organizing a vigil Monday and we are reading Life is Like a Rollercoaster, by Alex Schacter— written a few weeks before he died on 2/14. Incredible poem. www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml...
Kim Dragoo
My middle school students participated in a Memorial Walk today to honor the lives of these 17 valuable individuals, culminating in personal responses to pay tribute. We are exploring the question about the value of poetry as a response for grief, tragedy, and loss...and also pondering the fact that tragedies like this are about ALL OF US... the collective society. I would love to share your poem, as I feel that it definitely speaks to the value of poetry in providing one with the means to dig into our deeper inner consciousness to reflect upon issues that we struggle to come to terms with in real life. Thank you for sharing.
Elisa Schmitz
That is so wonderful, Kim Dragoo . Thank you for all you and your fellow teachers do to support and enlighten our kids. Mary Pat King ’s poem touches my heart deeply. What a wonderful thing to share with your students!
Mary Pat King
Please do share because that is exactly where it came from — a moment of grief. As a child, I turned to poetry and I still do as a 42 year old Mom! If you haven’t already, Check out Kwame Alexander’s book Crossover — and it’s prequel launches in April called Rebound. Kwame is a poetic novelist and my 9 year old son may be his 2nd biggest fan next to me! His work is compelling and inspiring. I think you’d love him and it would align with your efforts to point to poetry as a resiliency technique. Thanks for sharing!!!
Quinten Darrow
Broken Lullaby

Please don't shoot me mister, I'm just a fat little kid.
I shouldn't have to die today for something you did.
Mom says "take the trash out", Dad, "feed the dog".
Please don't shoot me mister, I got to dissect Miss Lilly's frog.

Please don't shoot me mister, I think Billy likes me best.
Me and Momma goin after school today, buy a little dress.
Could be I'm the prettiest, could be a little white lie.
Please don't shoot me mister, I don't want to die.

Hush little baby don't you cry, again we sing this broken lullaby.
Hush little baby don't say a word, all your pretty pleases go unheard.

Please don't shoot me mister, look what I can do.
I can die on these school steps and they'll just talk about you.
Thoughts, prays and talk, talk, talk, seem to be a sham.
Please don't shoot me mister, I'm their sacrificial lamb.

Please don't shoot me mister, I haven't hit my peak.
Although she tried, protect us all, Mrs. McCarly's aim was weak.
Her gun, your gun, doesn't matter which is bigger.
Please don't shoot me mister, without that gun, you can't pull that trigger.

Hush little baby don't you cry, again we sing this broken lullaby.
Hush little baby don't say a word, all your pretty pleases go unheard.

Please don't shoot me mister, there's something they should see.
This could be their son or daughter, dying right here next to me.
Bullets, bullets every where, flying round their head.
Please don't shoot me mister, were the last they ever said.

Please don't shoot me mister, I'm just a fat little kid
I shouldn't have to die today for something you did.
But go ahead and change the channel, this happens all the time.
Please don't shoot me mister, nothing done, the greater crime.

Hush little baby don't you cry, again we sing this broken lullaby.
Hush little baby don't say a word, all your pretty pleases go unheard.


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