I survived a school shooting.
I was made a victim in the one place we are all meant to be safe — school.
Glass fell to the carpeted floor followed by muffled screaming from my classmates.
This was what I heard and saw during what was supposed to be a routine algebra lesson in the eighth grade.
We made jokes about that math class being torturously long — I didn’t expect that to reign literally true that day.
A guy with a gun was in the hallways of my middle school, attempting to get into classrooms, including mine.
My math teacher told us to stay calm.
The ‘active shooter situation’ played out like we often hear about on the news: a troubled principal over the loudspeaker saying with a wavering voice, “this is not a drill.” Teachers locking doors. Students hiding behind desks and hugging their backpacks out of fear. Police and ambulances racing towards what is supposed to be a place of learning, not of carnage.
I remember being initially angrier than I was scared, mostly because it meant I was going to miss lunch.
The gunman turned out to be a student at my middle school and in the same grade as me. I did not know him. I have never seen his face, and I have long forgotten his name.
Not one shot was fired, not one person was injured yet it remains to be the scariest day of my life. The shooter, luckily, had loaded the wrong size of bullets into the revolver his family had laid out at home.
I relive these moments of panic and jump every single time someone slams a door or makes any sudden loud noises. I relive these moments when I hear of tragedies like the shootings in San Bernardino or in the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado.
This is the first time I’ve really given my experience any public acknowledgment beyond confiding in a few friends, so people don’t really know that this happened. I’m not claiming that I deserve some sort of special treatment or pity — this was many years ago and for the most part, I’ve moved on.
This leads to the question of why I’m just now addressing this, many years later.
I recently sarcastically rebutted a gun meme posted by a friend on Facebook. The photo correlated curtailing ownership of automatic weapons in the U.S. with the ability to go hunting.
I made a joke how these weapons were “overkill,” which I found to be a pretty tame political commentary meant to state my disagreement with wordplay.
The friend of mine didn’t respond harshly — it was her father, with whom I had had no prior interaction. He rather bluntly corrected the terminology I used and suggested that the gun manufacturers have special “pink guns” for what I inferred he meant ‘girls like me.’ He chastised me over the Internet for being fearful of a deadly weapon. Well, first off, that’s a little sexist, isn’t it? And secondly, this fully grown adult was upset with me being “afraid” of guns.
You’re damn right I’m afraid of guns. Police officers, the gunman, my friends, my teachers and myself could have died that day.
Innocent people living their daily lives continue to die in huge numbers in this country. I know I’m not the only one with a story like this, living in fear that my classmates or family members could be next to fall victim of gun violence.
It’s okay to be scared of guns. It’s okay to value human life.