Even the trees are still this morning. It’s Friday but the traffic feels like Sunday morning. This has happened so many times, in so many places, and now in this place.
I was traveling when those kids in trench coats killed their classmates years ago. It took me a few minutes to place this feeling this morning, to figure out why a mass shooting would feel familiar, like déjà vu. I was in Thailand, I’m pretty sure, maybe twenty-three years old. Travelers who had never visited the United States comforted me when they heard through the grapevine that I was from Colorado, not understanding the size or population of the states—that I didn’t know those people. I had to explain multiple times that the columbine is the state flower of Colorado.
Now in my new home, I feel that horrid, sinking sense of ownership this morning, driving by the theater on the way to take my husband to work. Large media vans with satellite towers fill the parking lot, traffic slowing to a crawl so we can all stare at this familiar building with new eyes.
Dropping off my son at school was difficult. I don’t watch the news unfold when this happens somewhere else. I ignore it. But these were my neighbors and friends. I cannot keep this out of my heart.
Saturday my son chose to sit at the top of the theater—his favorite vantage point. Rumors are saying that’s where the shooter sat last night. I imagine what I would have done. Would I throw his little body in the slot behind the chairs and lay on top of him? Would I toss him over the half-wall leading out of the theater and jump after him? Would I pick him up and run to the dimly lit emergency exit? Or would I just sit there, open-mouthed as we are gunned down by a stranger?
I am not writing about gun reform. I am not writing about mental illness. I am writing about fear, the kind that makes me throw up. The kind that makes me get out of bed at night and stare at a small screen glowing with red and blue flashing lights instead of having to watch the terrifying pictures in my mind. Pictures of running with a little body in my arms. Pictures of little eyes closing. Pictures of red stains on a shirt with an elephant wearing sunglasses on the front. I am writing about a horror that no one should feel anywhere in the world. But so many do, every day. And now, I am one of them.