05 November 2013

Why Things Must Change

Things must change because I almost lost what matters most to me last night.

All day, my sixteen-year-old daughter's phone had been acting funny. She had tried to text me when it was time to get picked up from school, but her texts wouldn't go through. She couldn't connect with iTunes or the app store on her phone. I looked at it and couldn't figure it out either. We rebooted it, recharged it, plugged it in for a while, and still.

And my husband had been having trouble with his laptop all weekend. He depends on that machine for his livelihood, so when it starts freezing or otherwise being wonky, it needs to be looked at, quickly. He called about 6 last evening to say he'd be home for dinner, but right afterward he was going to need to run to the mall for an appointment at the Genius Bar in the Apple store.

It was my idea for Becky to go with him and have her phone looked at too.

We ate dinner hurriedly, and I offered to do the dishes while everyone else ran to the mall. I looked forward to an hour or two alone, catching an episode of Breaking Bad (my current obsession) and knitting a few rows on a baby blanket I'm working on. Maybe even going to sleep early. My son thought about going to the mall but decided at the last minute to hang back with me.

It was about 9:30 when I closed my laptop, put away the knitting, and reached over to turn off the light on my bedside table. My phone vibrated. It was my husband calling. I answered it.

"I just want to tell you we're fine," he said in a soft voice. I could hear Becky crying in the background. At first, I thought they'd been in a car accident, but then my husband explained. "There has been a shooting at the mall. The Apple employees have us all locked up in their stock room in the back. We're totally okay, but Becky is a little freaked out."

I sat bolt upright. "You're not hurt? Thank God. Let me talk to her."

My son, sitting next to me, pulled the earphones out of his ears and looked at me.

Becky was trying to tell me that she had heard gunshots, but Dad had hustled her into the back of the store, and the Apple employees were comforting her. I told her nothing bad could possibly happen to her if she stayed with her dad and followed the employees' instructions. She kept telling me, over and over, how much she loved me.

They were home safely about an hour later. One of the Apple employees was kind enough to bring them home, as their car had been blocked in by the SWAT teams and could not be moved. I'll drive my husband over there this morning to get it.

The gunman, a 20-year-old disturbed man who had been carrying an assault rifle and strolling through the mall firing at random, was later found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Read the story here.

I have been an anti-gun activist since at least 1998, when my husband and I attended the first Million Mom March on Washington with our then two baby girls. We were heckled and ridiculed at the time. Strangers on the street, seeing our demonstration signs, flipped us the bird and called us "libtards" and idiots. I have met the same sort of reaction on Facebook after every mass shooting in recent memory (and, as you know, there have been many). People have told me to shut up, have accused me of bias against the mentally ill (when I mentioned that we need to find a way to get guns out of the hands of people who are mentally disturbed), and have told me that all the dead children at Columbine and Sandy Hook are the price we pay for freedom.

Freedom, my ass. This isn't freedom. A sixteen-year-old girl, huddling in a back room of the mall behind a locked steel door with her dad, while who-knows-what-all is going on outside in the hallway?

We live in a violent, selfish society. Each and every one of you who votes today in favor of the gun lobby, everyone who tells me to shut up because this stuff is "upsetting," everyone who equates my political views with stupidity and ridicules me into silence - you are all responsible for the losses, and for my daughter's tears.

Thank you for the thoughts and prayers, but thoughts and prayers don't change things. And things need to change. Now. Today. Get off your knees and onto your feet and do something, before it happens to someone YOU love.