Last week, 18-year-old Mehakpreet Sethi was fatally stabbed at a local Surrey high school and as a member of the community, I’ve paused to reflect on what this means for our community.

My reflection is the result of many things. For starters, the school that it happened at, Tamanawis Secondary School, is where I went to high school. It’s an institution that formed a huge part of my identity and an institution that has contributed a lot to the way I think and feel about myself.

Tamanawis is where I learned about world history, how to make friends, play sports, and what it really means to be a kid from Surrey. I now see my high school in the news and on social media, but not for something that uplifts my heart or spirits. 

I’m reflecting on the recent stabbing at Tamanawis Secondary School as a kid from Surrey, too. It seems that every so often, a story like this one shakes the entire community.

Every loss surprises us, shocks us, makes it harder for us to focus at work and school, and then seemingly disappears from our consciousness– until the next time.

We talk about it with disbelief at dinner with our parents and siblings, send screenshots in group chats, and repost to social media. It becomes a part of the fabric of Surrey somehow, and even the way we understand Surrey. It also becomes how others exclusively view us. 

I reflect on the recent stabbing at Tamanawis Secondary School too, as an older sister to a younger brother who just graduated as a Tamanawis Wildcat. He tells me he knows of the kids involved. They would walk past one another in the halls and see each other at lunch.

I reflect as a sister who kneeled on her bathroom floor and cried the day her precious baby brother turned 18. I was so happy we made it to 18 without being stabbed, shot at, beat up, or robbed. I was ecstatic we made it to 18 years and he always picked up the phone and came home at the end of the night. I say we because it took both of us to get to that point. 

I also reflect on the recent stabbing at Tamanawis Secondary School as a graduate student. I dedicated my Master’s degree to the young brown boys of my city. I wanted to know why they were shooting each other, stabbing each other, and hurting each other.

I wanted to know why they were so angry and hurt, so deeply entrenched in their pain that they were inflicting this pain on others. I reflect on that young 21-year-old Harpo who moved across the country, and sat in classrooms with unfamiliar faces, reading texts by unfamiliar names, trying desperately to find the “why”. 

Today, I reflect on the recent stabbing at Tamanawis Secondary School as General Manager for 5X Fest. As I go through the daily operations of our organization, responding to emails and checking Slack, I hear a faint voice coming from inside of me. The voice repeats the same thing over and over again. It keeps saying, “how can we stop this? What can we do? What are we not doing enough?”. The voice is supported by a warmth in my heart and glossy eyes, both itching for action.

I must’ve played different scenarios in my head dozens of times. Is it more panels? More rallies? More community events? More articles? More tweets? More candlelight vigils? More therapy sessions? 

I imagine, though, that part of this answer lies in the way our community comes together. Seeing our community gather at Mehakpreet’s vigil last week, reminded me of the beautiful ways we gather to support each other in times of loss.

We have to look inwards and outwards—at the many intersecting structures and patterns that are creating the conditions for our boys to die. We have to tease out all the many reasons that keep having to hear these stories in the first place—so parents, grandparents, and siblings don’t have to get that dreaded call that they’ve lost one of their own.

So older sisters don’t have to sob with relief on the bathroom floor the day their brothers turn 18 and hope desperately that they'll make it to 19, or 20, or 21. 

As I sit with my reflections and all the positions that inform my reflections on the recent stabbing at Tamanawis Secondary School, I can’t help but ask myself: what could it possibly be? What are we supposed to do? Is the answer just staring at us in the face as we continue to miss it every time? What could the solution possibly be? 

I don’t have all the answers yet, and perhaps I may never. But honestly unpacking it with our community is hopefully a good place to start. 

We can’t find the answers alone. 

About the author

Harpo Mander

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5X Press is a forum for opinions, conversations, & experiences, powered by South Asian youth. The views expressed here are not representative of those of 5X Festival.