Wild fires are ravaging NorCal. Harvey Weinstein has been revealed as yet another powerful rich white man who has abused his wealth and fame to sexually assault countless women. Hurricane Ophelia is heading towards Europe. Donald Trump is still tweeting about fake news. For the most part, we have forgotten the horror of the Las Vegas shooting that happened just a few weeks ago.
This is more troublesome than anything, because mass shooting has become such a part of our societal norm. We are shocked, we grieve, we send our thoughts and prayers, and we forget. Since Sandy Hook in 2012, when 20 kindergarteners were shot dead, it seems that this incredible loss and cultural phenomenon doesn’t shock us in the same way it should. For me, though, this Vegas shooting is something that I can’t seem to “just forget”.
October 1st was the night when all hell broke loose. I, a university student in Southern California, woke up to the devastating news on October 2nd that America has somehow already broken its record for the “worst” and “largest” mass shooting since the Pulse shooting in Orlando claimed that title in June of last year. I went to school, reading news article after news article, all of which had to be updated every few minutes because the number of the injured and the dead kept increasing.
That day I got a lunch with a friend and we were talking about the Vegas shooting. We were both upset at the current administration and Republicans in Congress, all of whom tweeted their “thoughts and prayers” while still refusing to address the crux of this issue—guns—and insisting that it was “not the right time” to discuss gun control. We were also scared: in a moment’s notice, we or our loved ones could fall victims to this type of tragic, senseless death. And in the very moment that we were munching on Mediterranean food and feeling hopeless about the future of this nation, people behind us started yelling, “Run!”
My friend grabbed my arm and started running behind one of the big columns lining the courtyard where we were eating lunch. Everyone was baffled, and some people ignored the commotion and went about their way. I was confused as hell, but my friend kept running and I just followed. We were about 5 minutes away from a local grocery store when someone yelled at everyone to go in because there was an active shooter on campus. After hearing that, I can’t exactly recall what happened next, but within minutes the manager had ushered everyone to the storage room, and about 60-70 students, workers, visitors were on lockdown at a grocery store.
I checked my phone. It was riddled with emails and messages from the school saying that there was an active shooter in a building and everyone must find the nearest building to shelter in. I remember trying to call my mom and my dad and my aunt, and texting my cousin, but I kept getting a really crappy signal and wasn’t able to reach them. I remember the employers offering everyone water, ice cream, and snacks to calm down, and I remember chowing them all down just to keep busy. I remember texting and responding to my friends to make sure they were okay and let them know that I was, too. I remember my friend sitting next to me and doing all the same things.
And I remember thinking I was really sorry for getting into a stupid fight with my cousin that morning, and wishing I’d apologized to her before I left the house. I remember that I was counting all these random storage boxes of bananas (there were 32) in order not to think about other things. I remember feeling so scared and so small in a way that I as a five-foot-nothing person have never experienced in my life. In that hour where we all sat waiting for any kind of news, I remember wishing I could do all these random things that I never even knew I wanted to do. Instead, I just sat there, not being able to do anything.
Once the campus was cleared and everyone got out, I tried to go about my normal day. I went to class, went to work, and went home. But since that day, even after the news broke that a professor had yelled “Active shooter!” when there wasn’t one, I remember not being able to really be calm, and I kept suspiciously glancing at every stranger on and off campus to see if they could be a possible shooter. I am, for the record, one hundred percent unharmed, but those people at the Vegas shooting weren’t and still aren’t. Neither are the people who were at Pulse, or in San Bernardino, or in Newtown, or in Sandy Hook. The saddest part of it all is that we don’t even see shootings with less than 10 dead or injured on the news anymore. According to the standard we’ve set, shootings that leave 5 people killed in Orange County on June 5th, 2017 or in Burlington on September 23rd, 2016 aren’t as big of a deal as the other mass shootings. In comparing the scale of the shooting, that is technically true, but what kind of monstrous hell of a society are we living in if mass shootings regularly aren’t making the news because they aren’t as devastating as the other mass shootings that happen several times a year?
Trevor Noah put it well when he spoke about the Vegas shooting on The Daily Show: “Another mass shooting, this time somehow even deadlier than all the other mass shootings. And they say that this was the worst in American history, but every shooting is the worst for someone.”
If you want to put a stop to mass shootings, click here to find out how you can support gun control. Sign up for petitions, call your senators, and do what we millennials do best: give your all where it matters most.