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Voices in Ramah

Emma Fernández lost her daughter in a school shooting in which a man with an assault weapon killed eleven children and their teacher plus the security guard. She copes with her loss by committing herself to the mission of getting Congress to ban assault weapons. She testifies before a House committee to support a bill that would ban such weapons, she joins two national organizations with gun-control missions, and she participates in a major demonstration in Washington to end gun violence. But Congress does nothing, and in the meantime there are almost two mass shootings per day in America. Finally, she devises a monstrous plot to get Congress to do something.



Standing behind the sandwich counter of the school cafeteria, Emma anxiously checked her watch and saw that the lunch hour would begin in fifteen minutes. After the cafeteria was filled with students she would play a key role in a plot for getting Congress to do what they should have done years ago.

  It was early October, and she had been working at this private high school in Washington for the past three days. She was a substitute for the regular counter employee, who was on vacation, and she had gotten the job using a fabricated identity with a security clearance. She would never have been hired under her real name because that would have raised red flags for the school's security department, whose job was to protect these students, many of whom were children of members of Congress. They were teenage kids who were privileged beyond the imagination of ordinary people, living in expensive homes and going to this elite school. They weren't bad kids, though most had an attitude of entitlement, some treated Emma like a servant, and a few made her conscious of not being white.

  Most of them would get their lunch from the steam trays, which offered foods that teenagers liked as well as a few healthy foods. Some of them would want sandwiches, and from her brief experience serving them Emma knew which types of sandwich were most popular, so she had made a number in advance to speed the line. And she already knew what certain students liked, which made her job easier but made her role in the plot harder. She kept her feelings for these kids under control by remembering what had happened to her daughter and by concentrating on what she was supposed to do.

  She glanced at the security guard, who was sitting in a corner where he could easily see anyone suspicious who might appear at the entrance of the cafeteria, so he was ready to take out an assailant within seconds. There were guards elsewhere in the school, and the back door of the cafeteria, through which they took deliveries of food and supplies, was double locked. Since she had a security clearance she was allowed during lunch hour to open the back door for deliveries, but the only deliveries at that time were from the company that supplied chicken and beef. The man who would make the delivery today was a substitute for the regular delivery man, and like Emma he had a fabricated identity with a security clearance. The plan was for her to open the back door and let him in with the usual box, which today instead of chicken and beef would contain an assault weapon. He knew the exact location of the guard, so he would take his weapon out of the box and kill the guard immediately, and then he would kill as many students as possible before escaping through the back door.

  Checking her watch again, Emma saw that the lunch hour was about to begin, and she took a deep breath to calm herself.