How Mass Shootings Have Altered The Way I Live My Life

June 15, 2016  |  

Orlando Police officers direct family members away from a multiple shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. A gunman opened fire at a nightclub in central Florida, and multiple people have been wounded, police said Sunday. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Orlando Police officers direct family members away from a multiple shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. A gunman opened fire at a nightclub in central Florida, and multiple people have been wounded, police said Sunday. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

I was consumed by the fatal shooting of 49 human beings in Orlando’s Pulse nightclub the moment I caught wind of its subsequent hashtag, #PrayForOrlando. As minute-by-minute facts and stories of the victims continue to flood in since news broke early Sunday, I’ve come to realize the full scope of its impact on all of us. We pray, we beg for gun control reform, we donate blood and even update our social media to show our support of every person this world lost that day. But what we usually refrain from discussing is how our day-to-day lives are completely reshaped because of such tragedies.

From what I can gather, this is about the fifth time where my day was totally eclipsed by news of a gunman opening fire on a group. Before what’s being called the deadliest shooting in U.S. history, I remember Columbine, when I was too young to fully process how someone could kill 13 of their high school classmates and a teacher. I also recall that fateful day at Virginia Tech when my school, Norfolk State University, though roughly 300 miles away, was put on lockdown until authorities confirmed Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people, then himself. Then, there was the Aurora shooting during a showing of The Dark Knight Rises and, of course, Sandy Hook, which arrested the entire country after the killing of 27 people, including 20 children.

Though it’s easy to believe that we’ve become desensitized to children being shot in classrooms, people being gunned down while trying to have a good time at the movies or in a nightclub, and another AR-15 making headline news, but what’s real is that, because it takes just seven minutes to buy an automatic weapon, and mental health is still talked about in whispers and hushed tones, I almost jump out of my skin whenever someone takes a bathroom break during a movie. I keep my eyes almost squarely on the exits when I’m in a crowded bar. Even somewhere in the small spaces of my mind, I second guess bringing kids into this world, because Lord knows my heart would stop beating if I received an “I’m gonna die” text from my child.

That’s why, as stories and facts still come pouring in through tickers on CNN and news anchors and witnesses give live reports and accounts, Americans are begging for gun control NOW. Let’s face it, though. Guns are only a part of problem, not the sole problem. This hate crime was unequivocally aimed at gays in a country that doesn’t do enough to fight in their favor. They’re a tragically marginalized group of folks who solely want to love freely and without consequence. Still, even after such a massacre, the FDA continues to refuse to lift the ban on blood donations from gay men who haven’t been celibate for at least a year. Furthermore, the minute Omar Mateen was identified as the Pulse shooter, media, and Donald Trump, immediately conjured anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Trust me, the problem runs much deeper than firearms.

These horrific accounts aside, there is an overwhelming amount of good in this world. It’s seen in the way we band together in times of distress. But until we combat systemic and individual hate and intolerance with preventive laws, these senseless acts will continue to chip away at all of our lives, be it in the form of yet another mass shooting or the sheer fear of pumping gas in broad daylight or going to a crowded festival, not knowing what may happen next.

Until there is a true solution, I pray for those who’ve had to personally endure these brutal acts. I can’t even begin to fully grasp the haunting feeling of losing a child or being blindsided by the barrage of bullets from an AR-15 while dancing with friends. I pray for our country, which at the moment, seems overly concerned with eradicating “radical terrorism” and mislabeling entire groups and cultures as our enemy, to fix the emotional and physical corrosion caused by these undertakings. We deserve better from those elected to govern, protect, and serve.

These are scary times we’re living in right now, and it’s hard not to live in fear. As it stands, those leading us and hoping to lead us down the line need to realize that the only way to make America truly great is to make it safe for every single one of its citizens. Period.

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