I was 7 years old when the Columbine shooting took place. The twin towers fell the day before my ninth birthday. And in the year in between those tragedies, my sister was born. All three of these events have shaped the world I live in today.

I remember the day she was born. I came downstairs early in the morning. My grandmother was sitting at the kitchen table and the room smelled like coffee – a rarity in our tea-drinking household. She looked at me and said, “You have a baby sister.” And in that moment, I knew her safety was my utmost responsibility and that I would do everything in my power to protect her.

Of course, since I wasn’t even 8 yet, I figured that mostly meant stopping her from sticking forks into light sockets. The possibility of military-grade rifles in the hands of maniacs hadn’t occurred to me yet. And believe me, a lot of dangers occurred to me. I was a very anxious child. (It didn’t help that my father convinced me there were things such as “freshwater Saco River sharks.”)

When I was growing up, we had a few lockdown drills, but the term “active shooter” hadn’t become part of school lingo. When a fire alarm went off, the first thing we thought was “Oh no, I hope nothing is on fire,” not “Oh no, I hope nobody is getting murdered in the hallway.” Unfortunately, my generation may have been the last generation to be so lucky.

And it’s really about luck. I’d like to think a mass shooting wouldn’t happen at my sister’s school. Gorham is a nice town with a good school district. So was Parkland. So was Columbine. It would be easy for someone with a rifle in a duffle bag to walk in and open fire in the cafeteria, or the auditorium, or a classroom. There’s very little security. Technically, visitors are viewed through a camera and buzzed in (sometimes, when the door isn’t just unlocked), but in all the times I’ve gone into the school to pick her up or drop something off, I’ve been let in without question.

Literally, nobody has ever asked me any questions. This may be because I can still pass as a high school student – it’s the eye bags from exhaustion that really sell it – but somehow that doesn’t make me feel any better. (And who the heck thinks it’s a good idea to sell an AR-15 to an 18-year-old boy? When my brother was 18, I wouldn’t have trusted him with as much as a water pistol.)

My sister is 17. She’s not my “baby” sister anymore, but she’s still a child. So were the Parkland victims. And so are the survivors – but not for long. They will be adults soon. Adults who vote. Adults who run for office. Adults who have known their whole lives that being in a large group of people means being a potential target; who have practiced “active shooter” drills; who have heard gunshots in their hallways, and who have seen what high-caliber ammunition can do to human flesh.

At my father’s funeral, people told me he died too young. He was 59. If 59 is too young to die, then what is 18? Seventeen? Six?

I would take a bullet for my sister. So would her teachers, I suspect, if the moment came down to it. All the school shooting stories in the news feature heroic teachers sacrificing themselves for their students. And they are heroes, but they are also doing what grown-ups are supposed to do. I haven’t been a grown-up for very long, and even I know that a grown-up’s No. 1 job is to protect children. All of them. And as a whole, American adults are not doing a good job at that.

My sister graduates in June. When she walks across that stage, I will be proud (”Yay! She did it!”) and scared (”Aah! College!”). I’ll be sad, too, that hundreds of kids like her never got a chance to finish school because they were killed inside one. But mainly, I think, I will be relieved. She will have made it out alive. One of the lucky ones. No longer a student. No longer a target.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:

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Twitter: @mainemillennial