This Day Could Have Gone Much Differently: A School Shooting During My Therapy Session

On Wednesday, Aug. 21, I had a really busy day. I was working on things from home and was jam-packed with tons of projects for my website and YouTube Channel. So much that I had hardly eaten all day and I still wanted to go to the gym that evening. My boyfriend Matt suggested, “Why don’t you go out and get a smoothie? You can walk down to RawkStar, get a smoothie, and walk back. It’ll be nice.” So I decided that was a great idea. I put on my shoes, grabbed my bag and was about to walk out the door when I realized my phone was about to die. I stopped for a second and thought about leaving it behind while I walked down the street to grab a smoothie. I would just be down the road and would only be without it for about 20 minutes. But I didn’t want to do that. I put my phone on the charger and sat back down on the couch with my computer ready to work some more.

Now, you might be thinking it’s because I’m a sad millennial that can’t stand the thought of being separated from my phone for more than 5 minutes. But that’s not why I didn’t leave. I didn’t leave without my phone because I was worried that if a shooting would happen, I would be without my phone and unable to call for help.

Later that evening I told Matt about that and laughed it off, thinking to myself I’m just paranoid. I waited until my phone was charged and then went out for my smoothie before going to the gym. Then, later that night as I was trying to fall asleep, I thought about the very real possibility that a shooting could happen. Last year there were more shootings than days in the year. I thought about how scary it is that we live in a country where we have to fear this in our everyday lives and I remembered how in my last two years of college, I was terrified to be in the library. Whenever I was in the library to work (which was almost every day) I would plan where I would run and hide if a shooter walked in. Those were some of the last thoughts I had before falling asleep.

The Next Day

The next day I woke up and went about my day as usual, not thinking about any of those grim thoughts I had the day before. I got up, had my coffee, worked from home, edited some videos, and then started getting ready for my therapy appointment. It was scheduled for 3:30 p.m. and it was getting closer to that time. I got dressed and got myself ready and stood in the kitchen contemplating leaving early to go to therapy. I thought how nice and sunny and beautiful it was outside and thought about how I could pass the half hour before my appointment sitting outside on a bench or in my car in the parking lot listening to my podcast.

But I decided against it. I decided to just wait until it got closer to the appointment to leave. When I finally did make it to the building for my therapy appointment, I was surprised and extremely confused by what I saw. Cop cars had circled a building, which is actually a church, preschool, and counseling center in one. Police started to fill the parking lot and the pastor was outside talking to the police and visibly nervous. 

I got out of the car, confused, and wondering if I should just turn around and go home, but I didn’t. I turned off my car, got out and walked up to the police and the pastor to ask what happened. Right where we were standing, a man fired a shot into the windows of the preschool just minutes before I had arrived. Shock is the only way I could think to describe what I felt right at that moment. 

They assured me that the children were safe and had been evacuated into the church. I asked if they caught the shooter yet, to which they responded, “No.” I froze for a moment and looked around in circles, knowing that just minutes before I arrived, a shooter had been standing right where I was. What if he was still here now?

The pastor and the police kept talking and finally I had to interrupt because I quickly realized that they thought I was a concerned parent waiting to pick up their child. I shared with them that I had a therapy session at 3:30 and the pastor told me that he would get me through a side door. I followed him, looking around behind me to make sure we were safe and walked in. 

Two minutes later, my very happy, bubbly therapist greeted me with a big smile and asked how I was. I could tell right away she had no idea what was happening. “Do you know what’s happening right now?” I asked her. Her eyebrows furrowed and she said, “No, what’s going on?” “A shot was just fired at the preschool, the building is surrounded by police.”

Right then, a not so pleasant woman came around the corner and yelled at me to get into the room so she could talk to my therapist privately, and proceeded to tell her what I just said. She told her that we could continue with our session and they wouldn’t interrupt us, or we could leave. My therapist walked back inside and I could tell she was just as shocked as I was. 

We decided together that this was not the right day to proceed with the session and we should both just reschedule and go home. She then proceeded to tell me how she attends service in the church and was just there this past Sunday. She told me that she had been sitting in the very back row by the door, and was distracted throughout the entire service because it had occurred to her that if there was a shooting inside the church that she was in the most vulnerable position. Here we were less than a week later. 

She also told me that she doesn’t believe this was random. Apparently, the church has a sign out front that says “Dear God, please help our elected officials stand up to the NRA.”

We both rescheduled for next week and I walked outside to get into my car and go home, only to discover that the police had blocked off the parking lot and I was unable to leave. Here I was again outside in open air, standing where the shooter had stood, and not able to leave. The police huddled together in one area and were discussing how they needed someone to get the video footage of the area. Finally, I found a police officer and walked up to her telling her that I was supposed to see my therapist but we decided to leave given the circumstances. I asked her if she would be able to move, but it turns out she had to then get permission for me to leave. I waited in the parking lot, shaking, looking around me hoping that this person wouldn’t return. All I could think about was if the shooter was still in the area, they might decide to target the police and anyone else standing in the parking lot. The police officer then came back, looked at my ID, took down my information and said that I could leave.

That evening, I was in shock for several hours. I occurred to me that had I left even just a few minutes sooner this day could have gone far differently. I could have been in exactly the wrong place at the wrong time. If I had left any earlier, I would have shown up at the same time as the shooter, possibly witnessed the shooting, and possibly been killed just for being the only other person in this empty parking lot.

Once I calmed down and came out of shock I started crying because I realized that we’re no longer safe anywhere. This building is a CHURCH, a PRESCHOOL, and a place where people go to for therapy. This place, out of all places, should particularly be one where people should feel safe and comfortable. 

This problem seems harder to wrap your mind around when it’s on TV. But when you’re standing there in my position, surrounded by cops and hearing people frantically try to find video footage and make sure the little kids are safe, it doesn’t seem so complicated. 

This SHOULDN’T be a problem. 

This needs to be changed.

America has proven time and time again that we are NOT capable of having guns. How many school shootings have to happen for us to realize that?

Takeaways

Now that I’ve had some time to think and process what happened, I thought of a few takeaways: things that I really want you to come away with after reading about my experience. 

1. DO Something

Stop posting on social media and take real action. There is nothing that makes me more angry on social media than when people are posting about how “😩😭😔” they are about an issue but don’t do anything to address the problem. It seems like nothing but a cry for attention online and to show how deep they are. If people actually cared, they would stop sharing their feelings on social media and take real action to address the problem. Sure you might have reshared a post about gun violence, women’s rights, or the Fair Oaks Farm calf abuse, but did you actually do anything about the issue? Being #sad about something isn’t going to change the state of our country. 

After this happened, I didn’t want to just be another mindless person sharing their feelings and sad emojis on social media for their friends to see. I went searching for things that I can do to help with gun control. In my search, I found this article on “30 Gun Control Actions You Can Take Now.” Once I’m done writing this post for you today, I’m going to do several of these myself. 

For now, I have signed up to join the Woman Against Gun Violence. By becoming a member of WAGV, they will notify me about upcoming events, what’s happening with gun legislation, and simple things that I can do to help reduce gun violence in our country. It could be something as simple as making a phone call or writing an email or attending a rally. 

2. Trust Your Intuition

The day before this happened I thought about the possibility of being in the wrong place at the wrong time of a shooting on two different occasions. I had no reason to start thinking about this. I didn’t see a post about gun violence online recently and I no longer watch the news. Nothing was making me think about this subject, I just did. And less than 24 hours later I show up minutes after a shooting. Even my therapist was worried about a shooting before it happened and opened up about her own fears of the reality of becoming yet another victim of gun violence.

We all must learn to tune into these feelings that show up and trust our intuition. I’m sharing this with you not because I have it figured out, this is one thing that I really need to work on. I always doubt myself so much that if my gut tells me to turn right, I’ll turn left, and I end up regretting it EVERY time because my intuition has never been wrong. Unfortunately, we live in a time and culture where we’re taught to think only with our heads. Things like gut instinct, intuition, or a “hunch” are seen as being ridiculous and “wooh-y.” If you tell someone you have a bad feeling, they’ll most likely laugh and make jokes about you’re a psychic.

But your gut is like a second brain and is usually MUCH smarter than our other brain. It gives us that knot in our stomachs when something is wrong to keep us safe and point us in the right direction. Collectively and individually we need to learn to trust that again. There are some things that we might not be able to see, explain, and prove, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

3. Nothing is a Coincidence 

Just like I shared in my last couple posts, the universe has your back. Since yesterday I keep telling myself thank goodness I didn’t show up any sooner! Thank goodness my therapist was already inside the building in her office and not walking in at that time. Thank goodness I decided to stay home instead of leaving early like I sometimes do. Otherwise, I would have been right there. 

I want you to take some time to really think about this and reflect on your own experience. Most people haven’t just missed a shooting by minutes, but many of us have had some moment in our lives just like this. Where we realized we got SO lucky because we ran a few minutes late, or decided to go somewhere else, or decided to stay in one night. You must have a moment like that buried somewhere in your memory. 

Take some time and think about that today. Search your memory for a time when this happened to you and don’t brush it off as a random coincidence. Remember that we have a greater power looking out for us.

Take time to feel grateful for those moments because the sad fact is that not every single person was that lucky.

4. Gun Control

One of my all-time favorite comedians is Jim Jefferies, who created this bit for a comedy show that blew up and went viral. It became such a sensation that it was even referenced on the news several times. What started out a simple comedy sketch blew up into a sensation that helped people understand the flawed logic that many Americans have when it comes to their precious guns. 

Now you might be thinking, “Who the hell is the random comedian, and why is he talking about gun control?” But I think Jim Jefferies is the perfect person to talk about this topic. Here’s why: 

  • He talks about this subject in a way that is super funny and relatable, meaning that this message has been able to reach millions simply by the humorous way that it was delivered.
  • He’s from Australia, where he shares they had 11 massacres and finally the government decided to take away guns which put an end to gun violence.
  • Jim Jefferies had a home invasion where he was tied up and cut while the invaders threatened to rape his girlfriend. He shares that owning a gun wouldn’t have helped him in the moment. How would he have known as he was naked in his house that two guys would randomly bust in with weapons? It’s not like he was “ready” and had a holster on him. 

The reason why I absolutely love this video is because he addresses all of our flawed views of guns including, “I need it for protection,” “I’m a responsible gun owner,” “If gun control were to happen only the criminals would have guns,” and “The answer to gun violence is more guns.”

There’s one argument that I think is the most important thing that we need to take away in these conversations about gun violence. Jim Jefferies explains that every American should be able to have a gun. Yep. Everyone. Everyone and their mother who is a “responsible gun owner” should be able to have a gun. But guess what…that’s not how society works! We have to play to the 1% of people who are going to use it for bad reasons. As he says, “We have to walk as slow as our slowest person to keep society moving.” 

Sure, maybe the majority of people who have guns would be “responsible” with guns should be allowed to have them. But there are too many people who feel the need to walk into a preschool and murder a bunch of 4-year-olds with an assault rifle. There are too many kids who will pick up a gun thinking its toy and shoot their brother or sister in the stomach. And there are too many people who have the worst days of their lives who have too many drinks and remember they have a gun in the house, and how easy it would be to end it. There’s also too much domestic violence as it is. You have an abusive, drunken husband in the house who gets mad at his wife over something stupid, do you really want to know what happens when there are guns in the house?

This argument that gun lovers share over and over again is, “Why should I have my guns taken away? I’m not crazy. I’m responsible.” It just doesn’t work. Because as Jefferies says so eloquently, “That’s the thing about crazy people, they don’t know they’re crazy. That’s what makes them crazy.”

You should also be able to drive as fast as you want to all the time. But guess what. We can’t. That’s not how society works. 

We need gun control because unfortunately, we live in a country where this is not the first shooting at a PRESCHOOL. We can’t attend church, or send our 3- and 4-year-olds to preschool, or go to therapy, or go get a f*cking smoothie before a workout without living in fear of being shot. When are all of us going to get on the same page and finally come together and admit that WE NEED GUN CONTROL? How many children have to die? How many shootings have to happen?

Now, I realize that there are plenty of pro-gun people who would rather die than hear someone even mention the idea of gun control in America, but you’re reading a post from a girl who just missed a shooting by a few minutes yesterday and who knows THREE other locations that I used to go to that all had shootings. This is a very real issue that finally needs to be fixed.

I can also think back to middle school and high school and remember three separate conversations I overheard from other students where they shared that their fathers had a gun collection and gun safes. In each conversation I heard, the students shared that they knew how to use a gun, they knew the safe combination, and if they REALLY wanted to, they could bring the guns into school and murder people. This is America.

On that note, if you’d like to take a look and end this story with a much-needed laugh, you can watch it HERE: Part 1 & Part 2. I know this post is very different than what I typically write about, but this felt like something too big to not write about. And if you know me personally, then you probably understand at this point that writing about my experiences helps me to re-frame things more positively in my mind and process my experience. 

If you like what you read here, remember to go down to the bottom of the page, click that”+” symbol, and type in your email where it says “follow blog via email.” You’ll have all future blog posts sent right to you! Thanks for coming to Lost Online!

Photos by Ray Reyes @rocketsciencephoto.

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