Again and again and again, I tell myself that I won't let it affect me. Over and over and over, I remind myself that I am safe. The words are futile; I'm terrified and angered and sad. Like a scummy film on the surface of a pond, gun violence blunts the shining sun, diffusing it and muddying it and making the world a scary place.
Leaving the house wasn't easy this morning. Then, again, watching the television wasn't any easier. One of their own was shot down on a sunny morning and suddenly all those stories the anchors had been reporting over the years were no longer about the other – the victims were one of them.
I watched the CNN correspondent try to hold back his tears as Alison Parker's father said that his soul was crushed. I listened as Ashleigh Banfield tried to make sense of the senseless, describing how Adam Ward's fiancee watched him die from the production studio... in real time. Just saying the words made them facts that smacked her in her face; she had trouble physically forming the words.
And, again and again, I reassure myself that I haven't pissed off anyone in the recent past. I remind myself that I'm going to an out of the way place for lunch, that the salon for my haircut is off the beaten path, that Amster's kids and I will stay safe and secure in her house this afternoon. There will be no adventuring today; their Suzi is too terrified to deal with strangers right now.
This morning, at Starbucks, Mr. 10 and Amster saw the story in USA Today. “Mom! Just like Suzi!”
What do you say to a kind, thoughtful, loving 10 year old that will make it be okay? That I was like Mrs. Gardner, shot but surviving? That random things happen but not to 10 year old boys? That life is a crap shoot and we all take our chances just getting up and out of bed every morning? How can she reassure her little boy that he'll make it to adulthood?
I have no idea, and I'm kid-sitting for him and Mr. 12 this afternoon.
They came to the hospital and saw me, tubes running from every orifice, blood pooling in catchment bags, black and blue and weakened. They know that they are now older than Christina-Taylor ever will be. They watch me limp where I used to run.
They know first hand the consequences of guns in the hands of the mentally ill. What can I tell them that will reassure, will comfort, will explain? They don't need to be outraged; they are little boys.
Yet outrage is all I can muster right now. My Survivors' Group is peppered with messages about PTSD being triggered, filled with tales of sorrow and frustration and fury. Mostly, there is a weariness, a desire to find the lives we once knew, before guns robbed us of loved ones, of our abilities, of our sense of the world as a safe place.
Christina-Taylor and I were at a grocery store. Alison and Adam and Vicki were at a water park. None of us were in the wrong place at the wrong time. We were doing what we do, in places we assumed would be violence free. I wanted to shake my congresswoman's hand. They wanted to report on improvements to a local river. These should have been non-events, ones in a series of every day activities. We all, each and every one of us, should have been able to call our fathers afterwards, as Alison did every day, sharing the experience, asking for advice and compliments.
Instead, they are dead and I am wounded and guns are everywhere.
Alison's father was right when he called our politicians cowards. He's the newest warrior in the crusade to make gun ownership a matter of public safety as well as a Constitutional guarantee. He vows that he will not give up until changes are made.
Well, let's see..... Donald J Trump (when did he add the J?) says it's not guns but the people wielding them. Marco Rubio wonders about the quality of mental health care. Hillary says that background checks are important and that laws should be strengthened but her emails and server problems have made her more of an after thought than a viable candidate and the reporting gave her exactly that amount of coverage.
And then they went on to Donald J Trump inviting an audience member on to the stage to prove that his hair is not a toupee.
I had to leave the room.
This cannot be allowed. This cannot become ordinary.
Perhaps the fact that a reporter and a camera man were the victims this time will change the trajectory of the reportage. When I call Senators and Representatives, I speak to their aides. I always ask how they feel about the fact that Gabe Zimmerman was doing their job when he was killed by a gun. “How does voting against sensible gun legislation make you feel safer about going to work? He was killed because he was a Congressional Aide.... just like you are....and that could have been you and your employer on the sidewalk outside the Safeway that morning, instead of Gabby and Gabe. What does your Senator say about that?”
They pause. Often they gasp. One began to cry.
That was the effect I was going for, because only when it becomes real to those in a position to make a difference can there be any hope for change.
Again and again. Over and over. I am so very very tired of it all.