And Nothing Will Be Done: A Reaction (Or Lack Of) To The Las Vegas Shooting

I was fifteen when I was shot at during a youth soccer tournament. A shooter fired from the woods and kids on the soccer field turned into open season in a matter of seconds. 

Luckily, everyone survived. 

When the shots were first fired, I thought they were fireworks. Then, people started running and screaming. I still didn’t move. I stood underneath a tent, watching. Everything felt like it was in slow motion. My friend was standing next to me. She didn’t move or say anything either.

My dad ran up to me and grabbed my shoulders.

“Run!” he screamed. “RUN!”

I reached over and grabbed my friend’s arm. I began running, but I felt so slow. Each step felt heavy. My friend still couldn’t move. I pulled her right out of her sandals and dragged her across the soccer field to a shed as shots continued to fire behind me. I didn’t think about anything other than I felt so, so slow. 

The shooter was tackled by a parent only after he ran out of bullets. In a sense, we were lucky. He had used a single hunting rifle instead of a semi- automatic assault rifle. This is probably the only reason we managed to escape with no fatalities and minimal, though still heartbreaking, casualties. 

That was thirteen years ago, and I still jump every time I hear a loud noise in a crowd or unexpected fireworks. 

But today, I didn’t even flinch when I read the headlines. 

I was sleeping when the news about the Las Vegas shooting broke. I didn’t know anything until this morning when I woke up and checked my phone. I want to say I was horrified. Shocked. Surprised. But I wasn’t. 

I can officially say that this is the first mass shooting where I feel nothing other than sadness for the victims and families. This will be the event on which I can look back and say I have officially become calloused and numb to news about another shooting or terrorist attack (I consider this event to be both). 

I cried as a student over Columbine and Virginia Tech. I was a teacher on the day the Sandy Hook massacre took place. I had to keep my own emotions in control while trying to help students process their own thoughts and navigate their own sense-making, not that there was any sense to be made of what happened.

I went to teacher training that prepared me for school shootings. We practiced protocols, including with the students. I hid them under desks. I turned off lights and barricaded my door. I talked about how to attack a shooter if they entered your room and how to pop out the classroom windows and lift students out. We were instructed to run zig-zag through parking lots to reach safe spaces and to avoid running in a straight line in order to decrease the chance of getting shot while escaping. 

Again, this was teacher training. Not military, though you could easily substitute “teacher” and “students” for military personnel and it would still be applicable. No, this was the training I received as an American public school teacher in eastern Pennsylvania in an attempt to prevent my students from becoming victims of a mass school shooting.

As a university instructor, I watched, hopeful and with tears in my eyes, as a bi-partisan filibuster took place after Orlando. Even though I knew the chances were low that any changes would be made, I was still hopeful.

But today, I’m not a teacher and I’m not running from bullets. I’m not crying or even spending a lot of time following the details and discussions online related to Las Vegas. I’m not “frozen in fear,” but I do indeed feel numb. 

Numb to another shooting. 

Numb to more violence. 

Numb to another fruitless discussion about gun control. 

As others have mentioned, both in response to this shooting as well as to last summer’s tragedies, I agree that if things didn’t change after Sandy Hook, they probably never will in my lifetime. 

No, I’m not going to pray for our nation and its leaders. 

No, I’m not going to ornament my social media accounts with the “pray for Las Vegas” banners and icons. 

Instead, I’m sitting here on my porch, writing and imagining what it would be like if we didn’t have to worry about gun violence. If we lived in a country where people didn’t grasp so tightly to their firearms in defense of their “freedom.”

Freedom isn’t gun ownership.

Freedom is when people can go to concerts and soccer games and not have someone target them like deer during open season. 

Freedom is when people can go to football games and other sporting events without having to get their bags checked and their bodies scanned in an attempt to (hopefully) keep everyone safe. 

Freedom is when students and teachers can go to school and not have active shooter training as a common curriculum piece. 

We are far from free as long as long as this country is held hostage by the second amendment. 

But, realistically, this is the violent country we live in. From touting the second amendment to romanticizing our military, our culture very much helps to foster the senseless violence that erupts. Why cry? Why gasp? Why pray? We create this for ourselves, time and time again. By our fascination with guns. By our collective worship of military action and force. By our willingness to turn a blind eye to mass shootings in defense of “freedom.” 

So today, I’m going to continue sitting on my porch for a bit, trying to rouse some feeling in my numb-to-violence body. You can pray and cry if you want to. Either way, our Congress will continue to react the same way. 

In defense of “freedom.”

And nothing will be done.