Before The Storm

This article contains references to gun violence, murder, and suicide.


 

It’s been about 36 hours since it happened. Even now, with more information, I’m having a difficult time completely reconciling my emotions surrounding the shooting. I’m sitting here thinking about how things could have gone. How things could have ended. How I could have lost my life. Under further review, I’m reminded about just how little society cares for human life and now I’m not just discussing situations from the viewpoint of strangers. I now have my own experience to draw from. 

 

My story from the beginning: 

 

It’s Wednesday morning. The news has been discussing a Winter Storm coming into my area sometime on Thursday. It was far more logical to go to the grocery and purchase food for the next couple of days early in the day rather than later. The kids would more than likely be home from school and I would need extra food. It’s no secret that it’s easier to get through the grocery early in the morning during the middle of the week. As for emergencies, the sooner you go, the greater chance that you’ll find everything that you need. 

 

That morning, I took the children to their school bus stop and waited with them until they were on their way to a day full of learning. I left the bus stop en route to the big chain grocery store when I realized that my wife, who made the shopping list, didn’t tell me which grocery store she had in mind when making it. The option fell between the two stores that we frequented, the big chain or the local grocer. 

 

I turned the corner and parked in the lot of the local grocer because it was closer and there was a 50/50 shot that this was the store she had in mind. 

 

It wasn’t. 

 

I left the parking lot and drove to the big chain store. Reviewing my shopping list, there wasn’t as much to buy from the big chain. They didn’t have the type of chicken I needed (I was looking for breasts or thighs and they were completely out. They did, however, have plenty of chicken wings and with the “Big Game” coming up in the next two weeks I went ahead and bought two packs of those) and they didn’t have their ground beef priced. Being that I was already there, I went ahead and bought the few items that I had in the cart and checked out with the intention of getting the rest of my list from the local grocer. 

 

I drove back to the local grocer and proceeded to buy the remaining items from my shopping list. After checkout, I took the bags to the car, loaded them up, got in the driver’s seat, started the engine, and thought to text a couple of friends of mine. One friend had texted me to continue a conversation we started the night prior and I knew that if I didn’t respond now, I would forget and it would be hours before I took my turn on the text talk. The other friend I was just checking on, ensuring he and his family were preparing for the Winter Storm that was coming in. 

 

When I was sitting in the car texting my friends, I heard a series of popping sounds coming from behind my car, about 20 to 30 feet away. It took only a matter of seconds to realize that the popping sound was gunshots coming from the parking lot. I ducked down in my car, as would be typical in such a situation, but I popped my head up to assess what was actually going on around me. Out of the rear window, I saw what I originally thought was a man trying to drag a child out of harm’s way, under the assumption that they were just walking and heard the shot. As I watched this unfold, it became clear that the two were not father and child but instead a grown man dragging a smaller grown man. The man had mounded his victim, repeatedly punching him. The smaller man tried to escape, but more shots were fired before he ran away. 

 

While this was all happening, my only thought was to escape. Going through my mind was How do I escape without drawing attention to myself? I considered waiting for a moment when the assailant was distracted or occupied to try and back my car out of its parking space and gunning it home. At one point, I shifted the car into Reverse in preparation, but realized my reverse light would be on, and again, I didn’t want to tip the guy off that there were people in the parking lot while he was assaulting a man and assumingly attempting to murder a man with witnesses. I shifted the car back into Park and sat still. 

 

When the man ran away, I was still in disbelief that anything at all was happening. Because of the other cars in my row, I couldn’t see where the assailant went nor if it was safe to leave. I looked out of the rear window again and didn’t see anyone. I was beginning to wonder if it had even happened. Seconds later, the victim appeared, crawling out of the ditch and starting to walk away. A couple of guys were running out of the store to help the young man, signaling to me that it was safe enough to leave the car. 

 

I joined the guys, finally able to find my phone that I dropped at some point. While running to the victim, I called emergency services. The victim was trying to get away on foot, but only made it about 50 feet before collapsing to the ground. One of the guys started to treat the young man, who was consensus and quite alert, until the police and emergency personnel arrived. 

 

That night, while watching the evening news, I would learn details of the story that would alter my perspective on the situation. 

 

From the news broadcast and subsequent online articles, I would learn that the victim from early in the day was a wanted man in connection to a murder that took place over a robbery about a week prior. The assailant was seemingly somehow related to the murder victim. It became clear that this was a revenge shooting. 

 

Only once have I ever been this close to an act of gun violence. I was a child, performing in a Christmas play when gunshots were heard. On stage, we thought it was the all too familiar sound of the flag pole falling. It wasn’t until all the parents started rushing the stage, grabbing their children, and running out the back of the stage to the main door, did I realize something happened. My mom would tell me what happened. I was in First Grade. 

 

As I’m sitting in front of this computer, I’m still trying to process what exactly happened, how quickly it all took place, and how close I was to, possibly, not going home. While I wasn’t a target in any way, shape, or form, innocent people are hit by stray bullets and killed all the time. I was relatively close, only a matter of feet away. There was no way of knowing the situation or knowing to what extent the person’s anger reached. 

 

While discussing gun violence with a friend of mine, I began to wonder about what shifted in the collective American mindset. I determined that most, if not all, violent acts can be traced to one of the following factors: 

 

A: Someone devalued human life - meaning that the violent person doesn’t value life enough to spare someone else’s. 

 

B: Someone placed their priority on their pride and/or their public perception - meaning that the violent person fears being publicly viewed negatively by other persons that, to avoid the perception of being weak, they justify killing as a means of proving strength, power, and/or authority. 

 

C: Someone has nullified all other courses of action for one-on-one conflict resolution - meaning that the violent person doesn’t believe that any other course of action will suffice as a means to resolving a conflict regardless of the severity of the offense. 

 

While the country argues back and forth about the 2nd Amendment and gun laws, what isn’t being addressed is the mental state of our nation. We look at a shooting in a mall, in a school, or on the road, and while we might ask ourselves Why did they do it?, we don’t ask What is happening to, in, or around our nation and to its people that leads to the murdering of strangers being considered as the most sensible method of gratification when emotionally conflicted? 

 

To make my point with my friend, I proposed the following analogy: Imagine I took a 10” Chef’s knife and placed it on the table in front of you. You could use that knife to prepare me an incredible meal or you could use that knife to stab me and kill me where I stand. The same exact knife can be and has been used in both ways. The difference: Intention. The intention is the only thing standing between a recipe being executed or me being executed. Do you intend to cook or do you intend to kill? The same goes for any weapon. A baseball bat. A hammer. You can play a game or build a birdhouse. You can bludgeon someone. The intention is the only difference. 

 

Somehow, as a people, we’ve allowed the aforementioned three factors to skew our intentions while dealing with complications that occur while interacting. This same skew, in my opinion, can be linked to suicides as well as murders.

 

According to afsp.org, 47,000+ Americans committed suicide. Kidsdata.org states that 6,500 American youths between the ages of 5 and 24 committed suicide with 546 between the ages of 5 and 14 years old. What is happening to and around our children that killing themselves is the only solution they can reconcile? 

 

Regardless of whether it’s gun violence, assault, murder, or suicide, there is no denying that something has to be done to skew the intentions of the American people off its current course. Day after day, simple conflicts with even simpler resolutions are being met with hatred and discontent. If we learn to accept that people live differently than ourselves, think differently than ourselves, pray differently than ourselves, accept that it’s okay to just walk away from a situation because we don’t have anything to prove to any, and of course, accept that it’s okay to agree to disagree in life, then we alter the course of society before we lose all hope in love and peace.