Today our town made headlines because of a gunman who killed four people. The news broke sometime after ten a.m. with an APB indicating the vehicle being sought, and that the suspect was considered armed and dangerous. Schools locked down. Parents worried. Messages traveled back and forth over social media speculating who, where, why…
The suspect has been found, and he is not alive. He wasn’t killed by any hand other than his, according to reports. From messages he had posted on Facebook previous to the attacks, he didn’t seem like he meant to survive today. And it all happened here…where we live.
Now, I’ll have you know that I am a firm believer in teaching your children gun safety, and my sons learned early on in life that when a gun is in the room they are to leave it immediately. I know how to handle weapons, and I choose not to…not because I think they kill people, but because I have no personal need for them. TGG and Dada practice target shooting, and both have gone hunting in the past. I am a fairly good shot, but I feel no need to prove what I know to anyone. I believe in preventing things rather than reacting to them, and so I taught my boys to be cautious, observant, and drop to the floor if they hear a shot. Everyone has flashlights handy, we don’t open the door unless we’re expecting someone, and so on and so forth. We are your garden-variety chicken-shits, and it has served us well.
Having said that, today was a hectic day. It doesn’t matter how safe you think you are, when you hear that something like this has happened in an area where you circulate fairly frequently, and your kid’s school calls to inform you of a lockdown because of an active shooter that cannot be located, well, you realize that there’s nothing you can do to prepare for situations like this one.
It’s deer hunting season, and I’ve learned to live with the random sound of shots ringing through the air. The truth is that a lot of people who were near where the shootings took place didn’t really think anything odd was happening. This, like Newtown and many other towns that have experienced such tragedies in a larger and smaller scale, is not THAT kind of place. You hear shots and the first thing that crosses your mind is “hunting.” I grew up in an area where it was not as unusual to hear shooting, even in those days when most muggings involved a threat with a blade rather than a gun. My aunts taught me to hand over whatever was being asked for, not make eye contact, and run as soon as the chance presented itself. On a night in December about twenty-three years ago, two of my aunts were robbed of a vehicle and their purses right outside our driveway, and -of all the things they found totally atrocious about the incident- that it was at gunpoint was the most offensive to them. “The children (they never referred to them as hoodlums or such) had a GUN…a REAL gun! Don’t they know it can hurt them?” In the light of day, of course, the realization that they had been on the bad side of the gun was even more shocking. “They could’ve shot us!”
When the schools lifted the lockdown and sent the kids home, parents rushed down to wait even for the high school kids. You can’t help but worry at moments like those…you remember all the stories that have been front and center since the late Nineties and you wonder HOW and WHY in this little town (don’t let the population and the big university fool you…it IS a little town,) and WHO would do something like that?
The dangerous man (which is what I explained to J as we rushed home in the drizzling rain) has been found and is no longer dangerous. There is no rejoicing in this fact, and there wouldn’t have been rejoicing if he’d been found alive either because four people are dead. Nothing will change that.
The sounds of hunting will no longer be, to me, just sounds…now I have room to wonder and worry.