I remember where I was when I heard about the Columbine school shooting. I was in the dorm room of some of my friends (L302 at Stockton State College) when the news came across on CNN. I can’t remember if we were heading out to lunch, but I can still see that small television sitting on the top of the bureau. The horror of those early reports was coming across the screen. It was one of those moments that changed everything.
Last Friday, I was driving away from my parent’s place after having lunch with my dad when I turned on the radio. NPR’s Talk of the Nation: Science Friday was on… and they weren’t talking about science. I called my dad and asked him to turn on the TV to find out what’s going on. He told me that it was a school shooting, a number of people were dead, and that it was in Connecticut. I thanked him and hung up the phone. The day had already been a banner day for personal stress and this just finished me off. I went over to my girlfriend’s apartment and just sacked out on the couch, waiting for the day to be over.
The erroneous media reports are now starting to finally taper off as the broader factual picture is starting to emerge. The transition has been made to grasping at straws in order to find a reason or rationale behind this madness; this invariably draws the nutjobs and wackadoos out of the woodwork to present their baseless theories that do nothing more than affirm their worldview. There is much to be said about checking sources and ignoring people who are using these tragic events to push their ideological agenda, but my thoughts for this post are heading in other directions.
It’s not the first time I’ve ever had the thoughts, but I have wondered what I would do in the case of a shooter at my library. Normally these considerations are bundled up into a larger emergency preparedness line of thinking that includes fire evacuations, water damage, and medical situations. It’s a contest of inner wills as part of me really doesn’t want to think about it in light of the circumstances while the other half is pushing to make certain that some kind of plan is in place. Part of being prepared is working out a plan of action and a backup plan so that those thoughts take over rather than incapacitating fear or terror. Even then, the plan I have sketched in my head only covers me, not anyone else in the library.
Events like these make it easy to forget the joy of working with the public and how every day is a bit different than the next. I’d rather not consider everyone who enters the library to be a potential assailant. I don’t want to inwardly cringe when someone comes to the desk upset or angry about an issue with their account. I don’t want to evaluate interactions or modify my actions through the potential-yet-incredibly-remote danger filter. I know a sense of normal will return eventually, but that dark thought will be in the back of my mind for awhile.
I’m not naïve enough to think that something possibly couldn’t happen at my library, but I am comfortable with the idea that it would be highly unlikely. Not because my community is special in some magical way, but that the statistics bear out that other more common gruesome events are more likely. Still, I know I’m going to be on edge for awhile in the hopes that there will be no copycats to this monstrous act. I’m trying to remember how much good there is in the world and how I am working to be part of that. It’s the best thing to hold onto in tragedies like these.