we woke up in the middle of the night as the alert went off on the phone. “criminal activity” was named but no further details. “criminal activity.”
we woke up in the early morning and sat with coffee and our phone and read that just up the road, merely four miles away, the next mass shooting had taken place. three people were dead, at least two others wounded. the gunman had not yet been apprehended. though there was an active shooter still freely moving about, who clearly had no issue with killing or maiming people, we were advised that there was not a threat to the community as this seemed a targeted shooting. “targeted shooting.” “not a threat to the community.”
there have been 148 mass shootings this year so far, over 45 in the last month. one month. though i was somehow in a semantics match recently over the terminology “weapon of mass destruction”, i would hold to saying that no matter the gun used in any of these events, 45 mass shootings (described as 4 or more victims shot, not including the shooter) constitutes mass destruction in my world. is value placed in the use of words or in actual lives? it was heated. the semantics seem like irrelevant hair-splitting. 148 mass shootings with at least four shot constitutes nearly 600 victims. if the circle of those victims’ lives only reaches out to ten others, that’s 6000 lives affected. if the circle abides by psychologist/anthropologist dunbar’s number (the approximate number of people about whom you are able to “keep track of all the relevant social information”) and is an intimate 150, then that is 22,200 lives affected. others claim the social network circle encompasses 290 – which would be 42,920. and then, there is the acquaintance circle, which holds 500, which would be 74,000. affected lives. since january 1. it’s bracing. it is destroying us. more importantly than any picayune semantics is the question of how to stop this kind of brutal destruction of lives.
and so, sunday morning – again – three mommas, three dads, three sets of family members, loved ones, friends were informed that the person they loved was dead. in a moment. and there is no going back. because in one moment people went from breathing, from living in whatever circumstances they were in, from whatever challenges they faced and whatever adversity had befallen them or whatever joy had emerged for them, to not. this time, in our town. we have joined boulder, atlanta, indianapolis, stockton, chicago, too many towns to list. we are number 47. in the last month.
targeted shooting. not a threat to the community. mass destruction. weapons. lives and lives and lives.
in these times, masked paths crossing at the grocery store count as a visit. especially when you pull your cart over to the side and step out of the line of traffic. we were at one of the local markets a few days ago, efficiently going about our list, when i heard my name – with a question mark at the end. because, as you know, it is a tad bit harder to recognize people when they are wearing masks. maybe fifteen minutes later or so, we felt like we had had a social outing, a surprise visit. we felt fortunate to have been there at that very time.
we talked about the pandemic, recent challenges, difficult times, isolation, family, a little sense-making by the end cap of maybe-it-was-the-coffee-aisle. we posed hard questions and sorted to the support of each other. the statement i remember clearly in this warm-conversation-that-felt-like-a-tiny-visit was sue’s. “to remind us we’re still here,” she wisely commented. “we’re still here.”
in today’s world, even more than before, being “still here” is nothing to take for granted. in today’s world, you don’t know what might happen at the grocery store, the mall, the religious house you attend, the festival, the concert, the bar, the school, the house party, the club, on the street, the spa, the convenience store, the gas station, the park, your workplace. being “still here” is not a given.
i took this photograph of tiny white flowers blooming out of the fallen leaves in the woods off the side of the trail on a partly cloudy day. purity, new growth out of the decay on the forest floor, the phoenix.
it seems that we are tiny flowers, fragile, each and every day rising, each and every day trying, each and every day breathing, reaching for the sun and soaking in the warmth of another day.
we are still here. and we are reminded to make it count.