It was 11:16 at night, Wednesday, November 7, 2018. We were asleep and peacefully resting from a day at work when the land line began to ring. My first instinct was to ignore the disrupting, loud sound, especially at such a late hour, thinking it was another ridiculous sales call bothering me in the night. But, this call was different; pandemonium could be heard in the background. As my heart raced I began to focus on the caller’s voice. “Mom, dad, please pick up, there’s been a shooting at Borderline! Mom, dad, pick up the phone! There’s been a shooting! Mom, dad, pick up the phone, there’s been a f***ing shooting!” Terror filled me as I fumbled in the dark. “Mom, dad, wake up.” This was the voice of my 21-year old son. Suddenly awake with panic, “Max, what’s happened? Where are you?” I began to shudder as I shook the sleep away. “Get dad,” he shrieked. I pushed my husband’s sleeping body, wildly insisting he wake up as I handed him the phone.
I grabbed the remote control and switched on the news. Before I knew what was going on, the images began to attack my senses. I heard the sounds of bullets, cries and sirens and saw blaring lights from fire engines and police cars. “What the hell was happening?” My body became clammy with sweat from the heat that began in my chest and engulfed my body. My thoughts were racing and my veins pulsed like an unstoppable fire alarm. I stared at the television with my hands over my mouth. My legs felt like cement. They wouldn’t move. I knew my son was obviously alive, but I wondered for how long, as the news reported it as an ongoing active shooting scene. There were no tears, there was shock and still resolve as I stared at the TV. My life was on pause.
Before I could even begin to process the magnitude of the last minutes, my husband dropped the phone and was dressed and out the door. He hopped in the car, racing to our son. I waited for what seemed like hours, but the trip to the scene of the crime was only a few offramps. I began to shake uncontrollably when the cell phone rang, only to hear the hysteria in my friend whose son was with mine for the evening. In unison, we stared at the television separated by a few blocks, but together in our hearts and heads. What in the world was going on? I just wanted to see my son, my baby boy. Coping was the last thing on my mind; I just wanted to shower him in my unconditional love, hug him and never let go… Never.
He and his friends had been there many Wednesday nights before; country music, young girls and a few beers, just what it was supposed to be, all in a safe and friendly place. I continued to watch the TV, stunned; the surreal scene of squad cars, fire trucks, and ambulances parked in all directions; kids scurrying for cover under squad cars, escorts of wounded into emergency vehicles, all the while, cops with shotguns patrolling the streets as bullets could still be heard. My mind raced. Time couldn’t be measured as the seconds ticked by like hours. The phone rang again. It was my husband. He found our son whose hand was bloody from breaking through a window and a tweaked knee, all suffered while saving others. Our son was ok, rattled, shaken, hurt; but OK. He drove to a hospital further away due to the myriad of people and chaos at the ER near our home. Stitches only…But, not really. It was more than stitches. Much more.
My boy along with hundreds of young kids were all part of a mass shooting. Twelve innocent people tragically lost their lives.Have I even had a chance to process the gravity of the horrors my son has faced? His youth has been stripped away. Will his freedom to enjoy a night out with his friends be lost to fear? Will he be captive to his memories? For me, I am still processing the emotional and psychological trauma of trying to deal with the fact that I could have lost my son; and then it dawns on me, oh, my g/d, what must it be like for those mothers who lost their children?
It is 11:16 once again. Just like clockwork. Another night that I race downstairs to check on my boy, but he is out with his friends. Only a few nights since, and I am still reeling. Have I woken from the nightmare yet, I wonder, or will this fear become my daily life? Will life ever be what it was before the phone rang? I cry out in my dreams, “I’m coming!” I can’t erase the fear I heard in my son’s voice. I can’t erase the terror that has fueled my soul for days. I just want the world to reset at 11:15 that night and have this all erased.
I am grateful that my son was spared, but the sadness for the families that lost their child is unbearable. Standing at the memorial, crying at the site of 12 crosses with flowers and cards lying in front of them is a reality that will be glued to my memory forever. I am trying to make sense of this senseless act, but I can’t, no one can.
It was a Mass Shooting. I start to google… this was the 307thmass shooting in 311 days. This one at my doorstep. What can we do; how do we live like this? How many lives must be destroyed before the insanity is reined in? I know there are no easy answers, I know the pain I feel for myself and others is a drop in the bucket compared to the suffering in the world; with its bombings, wars, famine and disease.
Sadly, the sober reality of senseless violence and evil sets in. I know I can’t fix everything. I know in the end, the only solace I can find is that I raised an incredible boy growing into an amazing man. As a parent, I now know, no matter how much we want to protect our kids, the world, good and bad, will one day confront them, and we can’t control it. We want them to soar on the wings we gave them, but at the same time, clip the wings to keep them near and safe. Like so many things in life, we can’t have it both ways.
My son is alive; my heart is broken, my world is changed; and all the while, I know I am one of the lucky ones.