Survivors. Not Actors.

As our hearts still ache at the tragedy that unfolded recently in Florida, I know that we each have thoughts and concerns that surround the horrific event and hopes and prayers for our children’s futures as a result of it. I know that we have lessons we’ve each taken away from the whole enormity of the situation and the incredible heroism and strength of the teachers and students, both those who lost their lives and those surviving.

In the midst of processing it all, there are countless images and words that will stick with me forever, particularly the photo of the grieving woman with ashes on her forehead, that solemn and fateful Ash Wednesday, who was photographed holding onto another woman, both gripped with visible anguish right after the shooting occurred.

There is another photo, though, a set of words, that connected with my heart, and I’ll be honest….they’re not what you’re probably expecting.

Survivors. Not actors.

The words jumped out at me from a still photo taken from a TV interview with a young man who survived the shooting, who was accompanied by his father. As the finger pointing amongst political parties and organizations has raged, students and their families have unwittingly been caught in the crossfire. Yes, some students have come forward to advocate for change, but no matter how you feel about that, I hope you can appreciate that every one of these individuals deserve respect, especially at such a time of trauma. Only time will tell what really happened that day, and whose lack of action bears some responsibility for the atrocity, but in the meantime, I am attempting to listen and to respect them in the place of processing their loss and their hopes to use it for greater good.

But I digress. When I see those words “survivors not actors,” I can’t help but reflect upon how those words apply to me and my fellow abortion survivors. As I’ve discussed before, survivors are often met with great resistance in our world. Our stories are met with incredulousness, our integrity is questioned, and no matter the extent of medical information we possess about our experiences and even admissions by our biological parents and medical professionals who were witness to our survival of attempted abortions, we are accused of “alleging” to be survivors; we are accused of lying about our very existence.

Although I understand the slippery slope that exists in our world, that some individuals quite simply will continue to deny the truth of our existence and the truth about abortion, in order to preserve their beliefs about and personal experiences with abortion, I believe it’s also important to point out the hypocrisy that exists in our world.

The students who survived the recent shooting are not the only individuals who are fighting to be believed and listened to in today’s world. Abortion survivors have been fighting to be heard for decades. Yet, by and large, the mainstream media and our secular culture has continued to paint us as nothing more than actors, just as many of these students are being accused of such.

Just as these students are attempting to use their grave experiences to advocate for change, survivors have been attempting to accomplish this for decades.

The bigger questions that surround legislation like Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton that legalized abortion throughout pregnancy, and, of course, legislation regarding firearms, are of a much greater scope than what I can even begin to delve into today, but I simply want to raise a serious question to consider.

In a culture that begs for tolerance and respect for individual differences, beliefs and experiences, when will survivors receive likewise?

In a world that encourages and respects advocacy for and by underprivileged and oppressed groups, when will we be repected?

Will the day ever come when we can take down the proverbial “survivors, not actors” sashes that we have donned for so long?

Although my respect for the young men and women who attended Marjory Stonemason Douglas High School comes from my heart as a mother, a former teacher, myself, from a soul that sees them as my fellow humankind who shouldn’t have had to endure such unspeakable horror, there’s also an outpouring of mutual respect that I have for them being willing to confront the accusations that they are actors.

Society may never change to accept the lives of survivors or the truth about abortion’s consequences on us all, but if I don’t continue to fight to bring about change, then the truth may never come out. So, like the brave young men and women from Parkland, I will not let the anger or denial of others prevent me from fighting for what is right. I will not let them silence me.

I am a survivor, not an actor. My fellow survivors are just that—survivors, not actors. And we will continue to spread that message throughout our world.