I’m a survivor of the Las Vegas mass shooting.
My eyes are still puffy and red.
My stomach is still sour to the point I cannot eat.
I want to crawl in bed and stay there.
I want to hide from the world.
I thought about all of the little things I need to do to return to some semblance of normal. I thought maybe I should go to the gym and run and let the stress out. But my next thought was, There’s only one exit in the front. Where would I run?
My best friend loves Jason Aldean and was so excited to see him perform. I like country music, too, but more than anything I was there for a fun weekend with her.
For some reason on Sunday, October 1, the third and final day of the festival, neither of us were in the mood to drink. We weren’t hungover. We just remarked that we weren’t “feeling it” and chose to leave before Jason Aldean came on so we could get coffees across the street at the Luxor. After some people-watching, we headed back and made our way to the right side of the stage — close enough for a good view of the show. We were excited.
At about 9:40 p.m., Jason took the stage, and we stood and sang along, enjoying ourselves.
About four songs in, I heard four to five pops, above me and to my right.
And I knew. I knew it wasn’t fireworks.
My friend turned to look at me and registered the terror on my face. “We need to get out of here.” We turned and started running.
And then more shots were fired — it sounded like 30–40 in rapid succession. We dove to the ground.
The shooting paused, and we jumped up and started running again.
This repeated a few more times until we got far enough away that I felt safe to just run. We held hands as we literally ran for our lives.
I knew that sound was not fireworks, as many claimed when they first rang out. I knew because the men closest to me in my life are owners of assault rifles. I’ve heard them before. I’ve never shot one, but I’ve gone shooting with these men. I know that sound.
I grew up in a small town in Northern Arizona. The vast majority of the men in my life were hunters and proud conservatives. I have several loved ones who served in the military. I was a staunch Republican myself for many years and was the founding member of the Young Republicans club at my high school. My own father has been visited by the ATF for amassing such a large gun collection. I have a .38 revolver in my closet as I type this.
All this is to say that, I have always been an avid supporter of the Second Amendment. I know all the arguments: Bad guys will always find a way. The gun didn’t do it; the evil/deranged/mentally ill person did. If we take away guns, then only the bad guys will have them. They’ll just use trucks or bombs or planes instead. Our founding fathers wanted us to be able to protect ourselves from the government. Yes, I know the arguments. Those words have sprung from my own lips in the recent past.
Today, I am a high school history teacher in a suburb of Phoenix. I left my small town, and my life experiences have changed my views. Teaching in inner-city schools, and teaching American history itself, has swayed my political beliefs to the center. I would never claim my beliefs are more valid than others. But my life experiences have been different, and my current views reflect that. This has strained my personal relationships. Just today, I hung up on my father when he fed me the typical “there’s nothing we can do” and pro-Second Amendment arguments I know so well.
I feel more alone than ever.
It seems that unless you have had to run for your life from an assault rifle firing hundreds of rounds on you in only minutes, you can’t understand. Some of the men closest to me are still clinging to those arguments knowing I was nearly killed just days ago. They don’t understand.
My friend and I have said that over and over to each other: “They don’t understand.” We are bonded that way — forever. And though I wish everyone could climb in my brain today and understand my heart, I would never want anyone to experience what I did.
So, what can I do? I feel a growing sense of urgency that there must be something we can do. Something.
I do not support banning guns entirely. I don’t. But I know there are actions we can take to make this harder. Make it harder for someone to rain fire down on innocent people. Australia did something, and it worked. Why can’t we?
We will never rid the earth of evil. There will always be people out there with a sick desire to hurt and kill others with various motivations. And certainly they will try to find a way. But why can’t we come together and discuss ways to make it harder? Put a few more obstacles in their path. I believe we can make laws that allow an individual to adequately defend their home and still impede others’ ability to commit mass shootings.
I love this country. I tell her stories, the good and the bad, every single day in my classroom. I stand with my students and salute the flag every morning. We love this land of the free.
But I don’t feel free today. I am scared. I will never again feel safe in a large crowd. I will never again attend a concert or sporting event. I am forever changed.
And I’m a mother of two incredible little people. I fear for them. We are not free when we have to live in fear. That’s not freedom.
Friends, please just be willing to discuss solutions. Set aside your partisanship. Listen to each other. Think of ways you can help in a concrete way. The only thing I know to do is to use my voice. The odds are I may never sway the opinions of even some of those closest to me. But maybe I can sway someone. Maybe there will be enough people out there who do understand. Maybe we can come up with a sensible solution we can all live with.
If not, I’ll just be another lucky survivor of a mass shooting. It will happen again, and we’ll be shocked and sad again. We’ll send prayers and love. And yet again we’ll do nothing. And on and on…