Here are the things people say whenever a mass shooting occurs in the United States:
- “Did you hear about the shooting in [insert place here]? Super sad.”
- “’My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.’ That’s what I just tweeted. Doesn’t that make me look so nice and compassionate?”
- “We REALLY need to do something about gun control in this country.”
- “We REALLY need to do something about [mental health/immigration—depending on if the assailant is white or not, respectively] in this country.”
- “All these liberals better not take away my second amendment rights just because of some crazy guy.”
- “Wait, there was another shooting?”
The response is often jaded, feebly emotional, and charged with political tension. I, personally, had gotten tired of hearing about shootings—not just in the “fed up” type of way, but in the “really? Again?” type of way. I was as guilty as anyone else of these types of responses.
That is, until the most recent—not to mention deadliest—shooting happened right in my backyard, just 10 minutes from where I attend school.
On the morning of October 2, I woke up at 6:35 AM to 56 text messages. Nobody was sharing their “thoughts and prayers.” Nobody was arguing about politics. Here are the things that people say, the text messages your friends send you in the middle of the night, the e-mails you receive from your nursing students, the frantic messages you get from loved ones, when a mass shooting occurs in your hometown:
- “Are you okay?!!”
- “You guys, I’m hiding behind an air vent. There are bullets coming from everywhere”
- “Get out of there!!!”
- “I can’t find my brother. I’m freaking out”
- “I just saw policemen running right into it. They are pulling out bloody bodies”
- “Just saw someone shot in the face”
- “Are there multiple gunmen?!”
- “Please respond and tell me you’re okay.”
- “I just got off a 36-hour shift. The hospital has been crazy.”
- “This person has been shot and is in critical condition.”
- “This person has been killed.”
And yet there are things that I’ve been delighted to hear, that I never expected to during such a tragedy, that have made me immensely proud of my community:
- “Don’t donate blood. The centers are at capacity.”
- “Schedule an appointment to donate blood later in the week…never mind, they’re full. Schedule an appointment to donate blood next week…never mind, those are full now too. Schedule an appointment to donate blood two weeks from now…never mind…”
- “Please don’t bring us any more food and water. We have too much.”
- “We need volunteer grief counselors…Never mind, we have enough grief counselors now.”
- “Thanks for giving grieving families free airfare, Southwest.”
- “Thanks for giving grieving families free lodging, hotels on the Strip.”
- “Thanks to the employees at other resorts who have helped us out. Love, the Mandalay Bay.”
- “Thanks to companies who have donated catered meals and emergency prescription medication to those affected.”
- “Thanks for giving people rides, blankets, and food and water, random Las Vegans helping out those who were displaced from their hotel rooms at the Thomas & Mack Center.”
- “Let’s try and raise $2.5 million for the victims and survivors. Never mind, we did it in less than one day.”
This is what it has been like here. I can’t begin to describe the sadness that everyone is feeling. It’s different when it’s your city. It’s different when it’s your friends that were there. So yes, “tragedy” and “thoughts and prayers” and “senseless violence” have been thrown around a lot, but this time they are not platitudes. They are reality.
I don’t know what to do about all of this. Do I think we should ban all guns? Probably, but do I think that is possible without a painful, possibly bloody struggle? No. Do I think that would stop people from doing bad things? Not necessarily. Mostly, I just don’t have the energy to debate. I’ll leave that to the rest of the country to squabble over, because this didn’t happen to them.
Right now, I’m just sad. Please just let us be sad.