Updated at 1:38 p.m. ET on March 24, 2018
In 1992, when a shooter murdered a student and a professor at Bard College at Simon’s Rock, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, mass gun violence held a very different place in the American consciousness. Before Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland, and the many mass shootings in between, the country hadn’t yet developed the kind of post-shooting script that has now become so familiar.
I spoke with Devorah Heitner, a survivor of the Simon’s Rock shooting, about the ways that Americans’ responses to shootings have changed, and how she thinks about her own experience with gun violence now that she’s a mother. The conversation that follows has been edited for length and clarity.
Isabel Fattal: When you hear conversations about the Parkland shooting, where does your mind go first?
Devorah Heitner: To my own kid, first and foremost. We had a scare here in Evanston, Illinois, on March 14, the same day as the school walkouts. My son had been in a peace circle that day and other kids in town had done actions. It was a very full day at the schools, and then right around dismissal they went on lockdown.
It’s a very scary time. There were a lot of warning signs that were overlooked or dismissed in the case of the Simon’s Rock shooting, but in 1992 in particular, as a society we were less prepared to think that adolescents, or really anyone, would just take up arms against their friends. It was a foreign concept. The New York Times ran an article saying that the killer had turned from classical music to hardcore—the idea was that somehow the change in his music was an indication of his future behavior.