Opinion: We are not totally powerless

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Cathy Reilly

By Cathy Reilly

I rarely sleep past 6 a.m., if even that late. I am usually up before the sun in the darker months and around dawn during the brighter ones. Thus, oftentimes I am reading the latest news before anyone else is awake. If there’s something that has happened since I went to bed and I want to discuss it, it usually has to wait. Such was the case last month in the pre-dawn hours of Sunday, Nov. 20. I opened a news aggregator that I browse daily and read with great horror of the massacre at Club Q. As my heart sank — it always does with each mass shooting — I thought, “Oh no, NOT again.” While so many of these have happened in the last 30-plus years, we must not allow ourselves to become numb to them.

The first mass shooting in this country I can recall occurred in 1991 at a post office  in Michigan, though if one searches the internet, there are earlier ones. At the time it seemed like an aberration, sad but not seemingly likely to happen here. And I didn’t know any of those impacted, so it wasn’t something I paid that much attention to. That is not to say the lives of those who were so brutally ended didn’t matter and that the pain of it all wouldn’t haunt those who loved them and were left to grapple with their loss forever. It just seemed far away.

But then Columbine happened. And while I’d never been in the school before that day, I had a family member there. We didn’t know for several hours if they were OK.  The anguish of the whole event was horrific. That was when I truly began to believe that our country had failed our children; we couldn’t ensure their safety from guns while in school. And that belief solidified when in December of 2012, children were again gunned down while attending Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. After the failure of our lawmakers to act to prevent future massacres like that one, I knew nothing would ever be done. And there have been many, many more since. Before Club Q, two mass shootings occurred right in our own community.

Colorado Springs’ population may have grown since I arrived nearly 37 years ago but in many ways, it still has a small-town vibe. For many, there are fewer than 6 degrees of separation connecting us. There’s a very good chance you know someone impacted by this latest tragedy. You may be related to a victim, or went to school with or lived nearby someone there that night. You may know them as a coworker or through mutual places of spiritual practice. And even if none of that is true for you, you know that area of town. I’ve never been to Club Q, though I did live nearby when I first moved here. And I do know people who had loved ones impacted by the murders there. I hurt for everyone touched by this violence.

In healthier countries, this sort of thing does not happen. And it leads me to wonder: What does all of this do to our sense of wellbeing? It can’t be positive, that is for sure. I was heartbroken in 1999 when my young relative said they’d only feel safe returning to school if there were metal detectors. I thought that was outside the realm of possibility, that surely the grown ups would be willing to figure out a way to stop future mass shootings. Enough was ENOUGH. How naive I was. Maybe metal detectors everywhere are the future? In the ensuing years, the nation’s children have gone through drill after drill after drill about what to do if there is a violent incident to include assigned hiding places. We adults should hang our heads in shame that it has come to this.

I read a disgusting comment about the Club Q murders on social media. The poster questioned why the establishment wasn’t more secure. If that isn’t a “blame-the-victim” mentality, I don’t know what is. Regardless of the precautions we take, the reality increasingly is “anytime, anywhere, any of us.” The prevalence of firearms in this country means any of us could be a victim of gun violence. However, we are not totally powerless if we are faced with a situation such as what happened at Club Q. I urge you to read about the “run, hide, fight” strategy on the internet. The concept is that if you can safely get out, do so. If you can’t, hide. If you can’t hide, fight with whatever is at hand. That’s what a couple very brave people did at Club Q, disabling the perpetrator until police arrived. Learning these concepts gave me a measure of comfort. Most mass shootings are over within a matter of minutes, so one is just trying to buy time ‘til it ends. I refuse to live in fear and these tips have given me some sense of security.

But there is one more thing we can do: Take a “Stop the Bleed” class. These courses teach that there are most likely everyday things on hand that one can use to care for victims of gun violence before medical help arrives. And taking one is on my list for 2023. More information can be found here:  stopthebleed.org. I hope that I’ll meet some of you there. After all, knowledge is power.

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