Yes. I am writing things here. See them? They’re words. They have letters formed into sounds which achieve linguistic gestalt and become ideas. But they don’t exactly say anything, do they?
I don’t know if you guys know this, but A and I are both from Broward County. Douglas was in our backyard. When I was in school (I’m a tad older than A, though I definitely don’t act it), Douglas was my cross-town rival. Our band and orchestra departments had mock battles. Their football team routinely destroyed ours on the field (we had terrible sports teams, guys). We joked they were sinking and they rolled their eyes because, for fuck’s sake, it was settling, dammit. We were the scrappy kids from the edge of town. They were the rich kids up north.
I had friends there. And, yeah, it’s been more than a decade since I graduated, but it still felt like my friends had been attacked. I knew that was absurd. I didn’t know anyone there anymore. I’m too old for my friends to have siblings there and too young to have children old enough for high school. But the attack left me drained and unsettled in a way that no other attack has before. I’ve been angry, devastated, let down by America’s unwillingness to do anything about this, but I’ve never been drained or unsettled by it before. Like, suddenly, I felt less safe. Personally. And it left me reeling, unable to write or to feel comfortable with anything.
It was only a couple days ago I realized why that was. On some level, I’d always believed Springs (Coral) wasn’t important enough or big enough or that it mattered enough for something like that to happen there. Because the only way I heard about these things was on the news, on social media, with famous (and infamous) people talking about them and reacting to them. It made those places exceptional (in the worst way), which my home town could never, ever be. Springs would never end up on the news. We were the place where the most exciting thing during my high school years was the opening of a Jamba Juice at the Walk.
Then, all of a sudden, it was there. My home. Streets I recognized because I’d driven them (we don’t walk places in FL). Sheriffs I’d voted for. Schools I’d attended. I saw the school where my mother teaches. Realized, for what is (embarrassingly) the first time that my mom could actually be a victim. I might get that call. That the inaction of Congress wasn’t something to be abhorred just because people have already died but because I could wake up one day and find out that inaction had cost me my mom. For the record, I am not one of those people who only gets involved because it has affected me. I am vociferous in my belief that gun regulation needs to be smarter, stronger, more effective (and that regulation is not, no matter what people say, synonymous with infringement). Compassionate action begun only when those for whom you must feel compassion are those you love isn’t really compassionate.
But… this is different. I feel like my world isn’t invisible anymore. People are talking about schools and towns and streets and trees and stoplights that no one but the people who live there were supposed to know about. A layer of my safe, anonymous world (which, despite what I’m willing to tell people here, I work pretty darn hard to maintain) is gone, and my home is now just another statistic for Congress to ignore. I have hope that the kids of Douglas (and, man have the politicians and gun trolls of the world picked the wrong schoolkids to fuck with) really have lit the fuse of change, but I know how impenetrable the gun lobby has been.
I hope this doesn’t sound selfish. I wasn’t there. I grew up in a world where schools were safe. When Columbine was considered a horrible aberration and tornado drills were the most obnoxious disaster preparation to ever interrupt my day. My life is the same as it was the day before Valentine’s (hell, I was at Disney World when it happened). But I feel like maybe that security was a lie. And if Springs can get hit… if Invisible Town, USA can get hit… Anywhere can. I knew that. On some level, I knew that. But now I feel it.
I hope change finally happens. I have hoped it since it became what feels like a biweekly occurrence. I’ve donated. I’ve voted (Marco Rubio’s victory was only marginally worse than Trump’s in my book). Written. Called. Tweeted. This time feels different. Invisible Town might be the reason big change happens.
I just wish it hadn’t taken this to get there.
Thank you for letting me write this. I appreciate it, guys.