There was an incident last week at the university where I work: just after lunch we received an alert that a gunman had been spotted on campus. We were "locked down" for over four hours while campus, city and state police, ATF, and FBI agents scoured the university searching for an armed man.
For hours, we hid behind locked doors, stayed quiet, stayed alert. Students were held in classes and libraries and interior rooms. It was hard to get a phone call or text message to go through because the networks were so clogged. Most of our information came from social media. As we hid, we listened to news helicopters circle endlessly overhead.
Finally, after what seemed like days but was in fact a little over four hours, the "all clear" was sounded. Thankfully no one was hurt. The gunman was not found.
The atmosphere on campus has been different since then. The first day, everyone was quiet and people universally complained of being exhausted. It is truly draining to spend four hours in fear. Mostly, though, I notice a general wariness; a cautiousness. It makes me sad that one person could change the climate of an entire campus, and that people can't feel safe in a place of learning.
Rather than dwell on the negative, though, I choose to be grateful.
I am grateful for the law enforcement officers who dropped everything at a moment's notice to walk towards the danger and protect us. Thanks to the media we're all numb to the image of officers in bulletproof vests storming buildings, but in person, it's different. It's very real and I can't image the courage it must take.
I am grateful no one in my workplace was hurt or killed that day. We all know that it could so easily have ended differently. We could all be in mourning now, instead of just shaken up.
I am grateful that I live and work in a place in this world where it's not okay to carry an assault rifle around a college campus on a Tuesday afternoon in broad daylight. Where despite the rhetoric and grandstanding of our modern political process, good sense and civility sometimes still prevails.
I don't mean to politicize this post, but I guess I can't help it. Those who oppose gun control can argue to me until the end of time that we're safer with more access to guns; that the answer to violence is to arm more people. But I've been in a lot of places around this world -- some very safe, and some less so. And you know what? I will never believe that more guns will make for a safer world. They never have.
If you've read this far, thanks for "listening." Just some thoughts I needed to unload after a rough week. I'm grateful for you, too. :)
*Photo credit goes to my brother, Andrew. Yes, he took this gorgeous image and yes, I stole it from his Facebook. Hopefully he won't sue me -- he's my brother -- he owes me stuff. :)