This feeling, a combination of fear, sadness, and anger is one we’ve come to know far too well— and far too often. Noticeably absent however, is shock. As a country, we’re no longer shocked to learn of these horrors as they occur on a near-daily basis. The Thousand Oaks shooting is the 307th mass shooting in 311 days. To reiterate, there have only been four days this year where there wasn’t a mass shooting in America. This is our new normal
Some have argued that we’re raising a generation of Americans who are told to prepare for these traumatic, inevitable events in their lives. Parents are marketed bulletproof backpacks, educators are encouraged to take firearm training, Americans aren’t safe at bars, churches, schools or concerts. I’m both thankful for and haunted by the country I knew before this. Thankful, that I was able to experience going to school, church, and concerts without anxiously counting the exits. Yet haunted by how vividly I can recall the shift in culture.
As a kid, I can’t say I ever thought too long or too hard about mass shootings. I was two years old when the events of Columbine occurred. Outside of the occasional documentary or anniversary news special, in my mind, Columbine was simply a rare and unfortunate event in our nation’s history. Not having a personal connection, It had little influence on my life. I was fortunate in that I grew up during the last few years of our country where the assumption was safety over danger. The switch, in my opinion, came with Sandy Hook.
I was in my junior year of high school. On campus and across the nation there were feelings of shock and confusion. These were children. In between classes, I scrolled through Twitter for updates and at home, I switched between news channels trying to make sense of it all. I couldn’t. Suddenly, my friends and I were trading survival plans in the event of a shooting on our campus.
Over time, the threat inched closer and the fear became more personal. That same year, I was in line for my own showing of “The Dark Knight Rises,” when audience members for the same movie were gunned down in Aurora. I began to fear for my own A.M.E. church after a bible study group was gunned down in an African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston. After multiple school shootings, I began to fear for my parents knowing the lengths they each would go to protect their students.
There was a time when I didn’t think this way. When the fear didn’t feel as imminent or the preparation as necessary. But that is not the America we live in now.