Blinders

This one's a little dark

TW: suicide, gun violence

“Do you think I can still make it to my mock interview?”

I stared at my roommate, incredulous.

There was a gunman on campus, and she was worried that missing her appointment would affect her standing in our business course.

I remember telling her to stay put in our apartment, and that I was sure our professors would understand, considering that we all got an alert from the university to stay away.

Hours passed. Finally, we got word that the gunman had climbed six flights of stairs to the top of the university library, smiled, and shot himself in the head.

Those who encountered him on the street or on the stairs later recalled his cheerful disposition as he waved at them. He breezed by them in his ski mask, holding an AK-47 that he fired into the air 11 times.

He had acted alone. No one else was hurt. I was thankful and confused and shaken.

Shaken that a college sophomore had gotten hold of an assault rifle. That he could have chosen to take others with him on his walk toward oblivion. That he took his life in such a public and violent way. That my roommate had responded to the emergency by prioritizing her grades.

Classes were canceled that day and resumed the next.

A few years and another state later I was grabbing a morning latte with my coworker. When we walked back inside the office, we got news that a gunman was on the loose, just a few blocks away from where we’d been. He’d burned down his family’s house before going on a shooting spree at the nearby college. Six people died, including the shooter.

We kept working until 5:00 p.m.

I can’t help comparing the responses to these tragic events to the pandemic’s. We go, “… Well, anyway,” shrug, put our blinders on and push forward. Instead of focusing on the situation, we immerse ourselves in an alternate reality, a normal we can control. We can’t slow down for too long. We don’t rest.

It’s as if we’re afraid of removing those blinders.

But would it be so horrible to see and take in how things really are?

Give ourselves and those around us time and space to rest, process, confront, and heal?

Stop ourselves from the eventual crash?