I have to get a little serious this week.
Every morning I get up and turn on the Today Show while I’m getting ready and making breakfast. It’s mostly background noise, but certain things will pique my interest and I will tune in for a moment to catch up on what is happening in the world outside of my current environment. As they rolled into the third hour, I heard the anchor discussing a mass shooting at a garlic festival in California the day before. They spent approximately 30 seconds to 1 minute on the topic before moving on and launching into a 5 minute piece about YouTube camp for children who want to learn to become viral stars. I didn’t even turn the volume up while they were reporting on the shooting and hardly turned away from flipping my eggs to get the gist of the piece, as it was so uneventful and unsurprising to me. There is something very wrong with this.
I am old enough to remember the rise in popularity of mass shootings. I was in 7th grade when Columbine happened, and it affected every single person I knew. Even though we were thousands of miles away from Colorado, students, parents and school officials alike were all scared stiff that something like that could happen to us. It changed laws and rules, even at my little county middle school. We all had to carry clear backpacks and safety officers were placed on campus from that point on. It was the most chilling and gruesome event I had heard of at that point in my life.
It was only a few short years later that 9/11 happened when I was a sophomore. The entire school stopped whatever they were doing and tuned in to the news feed of ground zero, and we all watched in horror as the 2nd plane crashed in real time. When you’re 15 years old you can’t comprehend the gravity of what is going on during a situation like that, but I still remember watching the blurry black figures of people jumping out of windows and feeling deeply disturbed.
By 2007 I was well into my college years when the Virginia Tech shooting happened. ETSU went into overdrive with worry and that was the point when college campuses everywhere upped their security measures. When I heard about it, I was sitting in one of those huge auditorium classes that have about 200 people in them. As I looked around the room, it occurred to me that if someone were to snap and do the same thing at ETSU, we in this room were all just sitting ducks with nowhere to go. From that day forward, I have never been able to be in a crowded area without thinking at least once “if a mad man pulls a gun out and starts shooting, where can I go?”
These atrocities changed my life and the world we all live in. I realized just yesterday that the legal drinking year is 1998 now, which means that the 21-year-olds of America were merely toddlers when all this started up. They’ve never lived in a world where you could go hop on a plane without going through a barefoot scan of your insides first. They’ve never known what it was like to have to be on standby and wait on the news to report things on television instead of viewing it instantaneously on their social media feed. Thanks to the internet, where you can literally see any and every horror known to man, nothing is shocking anymore. And due to this 24-hour news cycle and desensitization, we are now all living in a world where we are averaging more than one mass shooting a day in America. I want to say that again- as of the day I am writing this, July 31, 2019, the 212th day of the year, there have been 248 mass shootings. (*Statistic taken from news article on CBSNews.com) This is not ok…this is terrifying.
I am not writing this article to incite a heated political debate about gun control or what will solve this problem. The truth is, I don’t know that we can stop it. There is a multitude of factors swirling around that is feeding into this behavior and where we are as a society, I don’t think we can go backward. People as a whole are more selfish and it’s more about the “me” than the “us,” and everyone is hungry for fame or feeling important. I personally don’t think it has anything to do with accessibility to weapons; guns have always been available, that hasn’t changed. We have changed. No one wants to be accountable for their own demons, they want to blame everyone else and if they have to go down, they’re going to take down as many people as possible with them. The frequency of these events have deadened our emotions to the point that we don’t even flinch when they happen. In a time where we’re all documenting every second of our lives, down to the food we eat or the car ride we take to work, seeing firsthand cell-phone footage from victims of mass shootings doesn’t even impact the general public. I watched a 20/20 documentary recently about the Las Vegas country music fest shooting. There were hours of first person videos-people running while gun fire crackled around them. People being trampled, scattering, not knowing where to go. While it gave me an inside view of what the panic and terror is actually like during something like that, it still didn’t affect me the same as being 15-years-old and watching that lone dark fuzzy figure jumping on his own from the World Trade Center.
I don’t want to live like this anymore. I want to be able to go to a festival without feeling the need to visually identify exits in case someone decides to lose their mind and start shooting. I want to enjoy a concert without a little voice in my head reminding me that there is a very real possibility that I could be a victim of a massacre. I urge you all to think about this for yourselves and do all you can to be kind and loving to your peers, even those you don’t understand. Especially those people. The only thing that can overcome evil and darkness is light and kindness, and in this day and age we need all of that we can get. Remind yourselves that it wasn’t always like this, and it doesn’t have to be.