Mass Shootings

This week the U.S. experienced two more mass shootings. I have emotions and opinions about them, just like everyone else. I am fully aware there is not one singular thing that will curb these slaughters. I’m not sure what to say anymore. “I am saddened.” or “I am angry.” or “You’re in my thoughts and prayers.” are overused, simplistic and meaningless. While our country currently debates- and flat out argues about- which decisions are the best in order to move forward, I am reminded of another mass shooting in 2015.

On November 13, 2015 in Paris, France, there were numerous coordinated attacks within the city. One of those attacks was a mass shooting at the Bataclan Theatre during an Eagles of Death Metal concert. Ninety people were killed in the theater.

Out of all of the mass shootings we have experienced worldwide, this one stands out to me because of the timing. My daughter had just turned 14. I was taking her and two of her girlfriends to an outdoor music festival in Tampa. Called “The Next Big Thing”, it is all about new emerging music artists. The line up included bands like Walk the Moon, Pvris and X Ambassadors. The headliner was Twenty One Pilots. The all-day event was a few weeks away and the girls were excited.

Now, as a mother, one of the most difficult subjects I have had to explore with my daughter is fear. There is a fine line between teaching her to be alert and aware and yet not fill her with terror. As the years progressed, the subject “What to do if you’re in the middle of an attack” was added to the list of stuff I needed to discuss with my child. It’s not easy, but it’s necessary. Sometimes I don’t know what to say, sometimes I know the perfect words.

The morning of the concert, the four of us were on our way to the Amphitheatre. There was so much excitement! Two of them had never been to a concert before and none of them had experienced a festival. Twenty One Pilots was their absolute favorite band and knowing they would be seeing them live blew their minds. As we drove, one of the girls asked me, “What if something like what happened in Paris happens to us?”. Now, my initial thought was pure heartbreak that we had to have this discussion. My second thought was anger that we had to have this discussion. I was silent for a moment. How could I advise them yet not scare them? How could I reassure them while also be realistic? I first responded with, “Well, we will have a meeting place in case anything happens and we are separated. If there is any kind of attack, run. If you can’t run, then play dead.” It was surreal. I couldn’t believe I had to speak these things to 13 and 14 year-old kids. I added, “It’s important to remember a couple of things. Realistically- statistically- the odds of us experiencing something like that is very, very slim. Secondly, it’s important that we always keep living and doing what we love. Keep going out. Keep going to concerts. Eat at your favorite restaurants, shop at your favorite stores, go to the movies. Because when you stop doing what you love in life, they win.”

A few minutes went by and I had to tell them one more thing- what I felt was THE most important thing. “Girls, there is going to be a moment tonight where we will be watching Twenty One Pilots. We will be watching them, listening to the music, singing along. There will be a moment where everyone in the venue will be singing the lyrics together. EVERYONE. At the same time. When that moment comes, I want you to sit with it, see it, FEEL it. I want you to feel the hum in your head and the vibration in your heart. I want you to hear every person singing with you. In THAT moment, we are united. In that moment every person there has one thing in common. We are in sync. There is no separateness. There is no division. There is no us vs. them. There is no fear, no hate, no judgement. THAT is a magical moment-  WE ARE ONE.” Twelve hours later, that moment came. I felt a tap on my arm. One of the girls was looking at me. She looked around at the audience, pointed to her ear and with tears in her eyes, put her hand on her heart. She got it.

I don’t have solid answers to hard questions. I don’t know exactly why people are committing these heinous acts. I don’t know exactly why our lawmakers are stagnant. I don’t know why hatred exists. I don’t know why some people don’t value human life. But I do know this- we are more alike than not. We have more in common than we don’t. We are capable of bonding, uniting and being one. We are capable of feeling united, engaged and aligned. We can certainly do easy things together and I’m hopeful we can do hard things together, too.