Op-Ed: Today I thought
On my way home from class today, I thought about what it would be like to be shot. What would I do if someone opened fire right here, right now?
I glanced at a snow bank that had piled up on the side of the sidewalk from daily plowing. I could hide behind that. I could try to dig myself an area where I would be concealed from view, hopefully out of sight and out of mind. I thought back to when I was a kid, and my brother and I would hide in the piles of leaves that had collected on the side of roads so we could jump up to scare the drivers going by.
Since then, I’ve frequently thought about what would have happened if a car had driven over the pile of leaves instead of around. The same thoughts came to me now, considering the permeable safe haven of a snowbank. It definitely wouldn’t stop any bullets.
While I was eating lunch today, I thought about what it would be like for my brother or sisters to be shot. What would they do if someone opened fire at their school? I have a sister in middle school, and two more siblings in high school. What if their school were the next scene of yet another mass shooting?
I thought back to when I was younger, to the times when I’d sneak out of my school to go buy lunch somewhere, even though we had a closed campus. I always walked back into school with no problems, often to an empty lunch room, with no one to testify if I looked even remotely like I belonged there.
I’ve been back a couple times since I’ve graduated, and not much has changed. I’ve never been stopped to be asked who I am, or what I was doing there, or what my bag or jacket concealed. No one would be there to stop any bullets.
During a fundraiser for my student organization today, I thought about who I would call if people in this room were shot. Who would I want to call during my last moments, while someone opened fire on my classmates? I considered my boyfriend, my parents, my siblings, my grandparents.
I thought back to all of the missed calls I’ve ever gotten from my mom, and how every time she had assumed the worst: that I had crashed my car, got lost on a road trip, didn’t make it back to my vehicle after a closing shift.
I wouldn’t want to worry her, I thought, in case I made it out okay. I wouldn’t want to call her, wouldn’t want to confirm her worst-case scenarios. And if I didn’t make it out ok, I thought, she would know I love her. Deeply and fiercely. She would know that. And it would be out of love that I didn’t call her, that I didn’t force her to listen to her terrified, 19-year-old daughter sobbing into the phone while gunshots and screams echo in the background. After all, no call would stop any bullets.
These shouldn’t be the thoughts that I have. I should be fretting over my history exam next week, or the fact that I have a pimple on my chin that for the life of me I can’t get to go away. I should be thinking college student things.
Yet it now seems that mass shootings are just another college student thing: history exam, pimple on my chin, escape plan in a mass shooting. It is a legitimate possibility for my life to be taken from me by the hands of a stranger with a gun, opening fire on my campus. It is a legitimate possibility that the same thing could happen to my younger siblings on their campuses.
And it doesn’t seem to be taken seriously. There are people who hold the power to make this the last school shooting in the history of the United States, and yet they are more persuaded by personal interests and greed than the lifeless bodies of more than 1,829 civilians killed in mass shootings since Sandy Hook in 2012. Those with power in the U.S. have a responsibility to protect our people and they have the opportunity to do so. So why aren’t they taking it?
Claire Denton is an LSA junior.