+
upworthy
Family

This year's school supply shopping included bulletproof backpack inserts. We have a problem.

It didn't make me less worried, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

school shootings; gun violence; gun reform; assault rifle ban; mass shootings

School supplies included bulletproof backpack inserts this year.

I stood in the back-to-school section at Target throwing my kindergartener's school supplies haphazardly in the red cart when suddenly I couldn't catch my breath. I found myself attempting to control a panic attack while deciding between RoseArt and Crayola crayons. (Crayola always wins, even though the price tag is bigger.)

My panic attack wasn't over the crayons, though that would've been easier to stomach. I was flooded with anxiety over having to send my innocent 5-year-old off to school in America. Being a dual-income middle-class family, there's no viable option for me not to send him into a classroom, so I stood in Target with the full weight of sending my youngest child off for an education and a lifetime of trauma.

In the few minutes it took me to understand why I was having trouble breathing, I decided this was the year I'd add bulletproof backpack inserts to the school supply list.


As I read reviews on the different brands of inserts, one company was having a back-to-school sale. "How absurd," I thought to myself. We live in a country where bulletproof inserts for backpacks are so sought after that ballistics companies can have back-to-school sales on them. Give that a moment to sink in.

My disgust over the absurdity of it all didn't stop me from recognizing a good sale, though. After texting my high school children to see if they also wanted an insert, I ordered three and had them expedited to my doorstep. It was an almost instantaneous relief, albeit short-lived.

A group of people protesting

Woman at a protest holds up a sign that reads, "ENOUGH."

Photo by Liam Edwards on Unsplash

My teens had questions, and they weren't completely comforted by the answers I could provide. They wanted to know the ballistic grade and if there was an insert that could withstand assault rifles. My middle son asked if I could buy an extra one so he could have one in the front panel of his backpack and one in the back to increase his protection against an AR-15. To be truthful, the highest grade insert was around $600 and if you multiply that by three it made it out of my price range.

Until I asked my older children about the insert, I had no idea they were calculating what items in their classroom would give them the best protection if a shooter came in. I've seen them walk through school tours like little soldiers trained for war, pointing out spaces that could be easily breached and classrooms that would make it difficult to hide.

My heart broke once more when my adult daughter informed me that she still has nightmares about active shooter drills four years after graduating. What are we doing in our country where traumatizing children from kindergarten up is the norm? How is it that buying a bulletproof insert for backpacks seems like the reasonable option? We don't live in a war-torn country, but preparing for school feels like it.

In one generation, schools went from being worried your bully might try to trip you in the hallway to being worried someone would come in and shoot everyone. I was in high school when Columbine happened and remember thinking that it was a sad isolated incident. It never crossed my mind that school shootings would become normal.

But until something's done about the frequency of school shootings, I'll buy whatever I can to ease my mind and give my kids the best chance of coming back home to me.

True

Larissa Gummy was first introduced to the work of the Peace Corps in high school. All it took was seeing a few photos shared by her ninth-grade teacher, a returned Peace Corps Volunteer, to know that one day, she would follow in those footsteps.

This inspiration eventually led Larissa away from her home in Minnesota to Rwanda in East Africa, to give back to her family’s country of origin and pursue her passion for international development. Though her decision confused her parents at first, they’re now proud and excited to see what their daughter has accomplished through her volunteer work.

And just what was that work? Well, it changed from day to day, but it all had to do with health.

Mostly, Larissa worked for Rwanda’s First 1,000 Days Health project, which aims to improve the conditions that affect the mortality rate of kids within the first 1,000 days of being born (or almost three years old). These conditions include hygiene, nutrition, and prevention of childhood diseases like malaria and acute respiratory infections (ARI). Addressing malnutrition was a particular focus, as it continues to cause stunted growth in 33% of Rwandan children under the age of five.

In partnership with the local health center, Larissa helped with vaccination education, led nutrition classes, offered prenatal care to expecting mothers, and helped support health education in surrounding communities. Needless to say—she stayed busy with a variety of tasks.

Keep ReadingShow less
Identity

13 side-by-side portraits of people over 100 with their younger selves

These powerful before-and-after photos reveal just how beautiful aging can be.


Centenarians — people 100 years or older — are a rarity. Their lives are often scrutinized as holding the key to aging.

Czech photographer Jan Langer's portrait series "Faces of Century" shows them in a different light: as human beings aged by years of experience, but at their deepest level, unchanged by the passing of time.

In the series, Langer juxtaposes his portraits with another portrait of the subject from decades earlier. He recreates the original pose and lighting as closely as he can — he wants us to see them not just as they are now, but how they have and haven't changed over time. That is the key to the series.

Keep ReadingShow less

Fiona Apple speaking at the 1997 MTV Video Music awards.

In 1997, singer-songwriter 19-year-old Fiona Apple was a massive breakthrough artist on MTV, having recently scored big hits with “Shadowboxer,” “Criminal” and “Sleep to Dream” from her debut album, “Tidal.”

However, even though she was still a teenager, she was already suspicious of celebrity culture.

When accepting the award for the single "Sleep to Dream" at the MTV Video Music Awards, she gave an impromptu speech taking dead aim at the music industry. She asked the young people watching to stop emulating the stars they see in music videos and to be themselves.

Her speech was a bold move by a young woman in a room full of celebrities, rock stars and industry people. At the time, it looked like she was committing career suicide in front of the world. Twenty-six years later, it seems even more audacious in a world where the notion of being sellout is a Gen X relic and the entire culture is dominated by influencers.

Keep ReadingShow less

All GIFs and images via Exposure Labs.


Photographer James Balog and his crew were hanging out near a glacier when their camera captured something extraordinary.

They were in Greenland, gathering footage from the time-lapse they'd positioned all around the Arctic Circle for the last several years.

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

An 8-year-old snuck his handwritten book onto a library shelf. Now it has a 56-person waiting list.

Dillon Helbig's 81-page graphic novel— written by "Dillon His Self"—captured the hearts of his local librarians and their patrons.

Dillon Helbig's 81-page graphic novel captured the hearts of his local librarians.

Writing a book is no easy task, even for adult professional writers. Many would-be authors dream of a day when their work can be found on library shelves, unsure if it will ever come.

But for 8-year-old Dillon Helbig, that day has already arrived—in truly unconventional fashion—thanks to his own determination to make it happen.

Dillon wrote his 81-page graphic novel, "The Adventures of Dillon Helbig's Crismis" (written by "Dillon His Self") in a hardcover journal with colored pencils over the course of a few days. He even put a label on the back of the book that reads "Made in Idho" [sic] and put an illustrated spine label on it as well. Then, without telling anyone, he brought it to his local library in Boise, Idaho, and slipped it in among the books in the children's section.

Keep ReadingShow less
via Tod Perry

An artist's recreation of Jackie's napkin note.

A woman named Jackie pulled a move straight out of a romantic comedy recently, and it has the internet rallying around her potential love interest. Jackie met a guy at a bar and liked him so much that she gave him her phone number. Well, 80% of her number, that is.

The world heard about it on January 17 when Twitter user Henpecked Hal shared a picture of the napkin with her partial phone number written on it. "My 22-year-old cousin met his dream girl at a bar and it's going pretty well,” Hal wrote in the tweet.

Keep ReadingShow less

For years, you have been squinting, licking your fingers, or doing whatever you can do get a really tiny end of a thread into an even tinier hole, and thinking, [infomercial host voice] "THERE'S GOT TO BE A BETTER WAY!" Well, kids, there is, and you're about to feel both relieved and dumb.

Twitter user John Bick shared a video from a crafting site that went viral for being extremely helpful.

Keep ReadingShow less