'It's Happening' | Meditations
Yesterday afternoon, I walked to a coffee shop here in Charlotte, NC. It was down on Southend right off the rail trail. I arrived at the coffee shop and ordered an iced americano, my go-to, and took a seat at a long table toward the rear of the shop. At one end of the table, a newly engaged couple and wedding photographer were discussing their recent engagement in Hawaii and the details of their upcoming wedding. In the room next door, some construction workers were framing out a couple doorways and window frames. It was a little noisy, but my headphones drowned out most of the noise as I read a book on my phone and sipped on the americano.
Around 2:10 pm, a shot rang out. It was loud. It was close. It was in the room in which we sat. I flinched, the photographer grabbed the table, the couple flinched and moved closer together. At the table across from us, a woman flinched and quickly shut her eyes, another man at that table jumped, and a man sitting with headphones in turned his head in the direction that the shot rang out from.
Thankfully, as quickly as we all reacted, we realized that it was a construction worker with a specialized concrete nail gun putting a window frame in. Collectively, we relaxed a little bit and went back to the things we were doing. A moment later, the sharp pungent smell of gunpowder from the specialized concrete nail gun filled the air and then another shot rang out, and in rather quick succession two more shots. We all knew what it was, but we all flinched at every single one.
With the smell of gunpowder and the ringing of the shots in my ears, my adrenaline rushed. My mind flashed to the dozens of scenarios, that my mind had prepared myself for every time I saw another shooting on the news. If I was at school, how to block the door. If I was at a concert, how to protect my wife with my body. If I was at a restaurant, how I would escape. If I was at work, how I would hide at my desk and get others to safety.
In that moment, I saw all the people around me and their reactions to what occurred. I located the origin of the shot. The tables we sat at became barricades. The exit nearby became the escape route. The people around me became survivors. My heart and mind raced.
It was happening. It was here. It was no longer some distant news story about people I didn’t know. It was in this coffee shop in Charlotte, NC. The people that would be written about in national articles was the newly engaged couple, the photographer, the barista, the freelance marketer, and me. The place would be somewhere that many Charlotte residents have visited. The neighborhood would be Southend.
As for the UNCC students that sat in the classroom this past April, it was real. It was happening to them. It was no longer a theoretical practice in their head. It was no longer late-night conversations with friends. It was no longer just some politically divisive issue. It was happening.
This is terrorism in the purest sense. The actors in the shootings since 1999 have won. Just as the American people feared planes and hidden assailants on Sept. 11, 2001, and the years that followed. We, the American people, are living in terror again. We are afraid to go to school, go to work, go to a concert, or even go to a coffee shop in Southend. We are afraid of people pulling a gun out of a bag and killing innocent people for no apparent reason. We are afraid that we may be next. The actors of this domestic terrorism have won, we are afraid of them and the terror they can enact upon us.
Over the last several days, as area schools begun the school year, I have seen news story after news story about guns on campus, threats made to schools, and a woman at a bus stop with a gun. This madness has got to stop.
This is no longer a conversation about protecting schools, controlling guns, or even police reaction to mass shootings. This is terrorism.
This is no longer simply a political issue.
This is our issue.
Our lawmakers, our leaders, our representatives have failed. They need to see this for what it is. They need to shed their affiliations with one side. They need to forget their reelection. They need to forget their thoughts and prayers. They need to do something.
The people that lived through Sept 11th will tell you how on that day and the years after, we became one. We were united. We were one community. Mass shootings are Generation Z's 9/11. Their 9/11 isn't a normal Tuesday morning, it is an every morning, it is an everywhere, it is an everyone. As we became one on Sept 11th in the face of terrorism, we must become one today in the face of this new terrorism.
This is no longer a political issue.
This is our issue.
This is our time for action.