I’m hesitant to participate in this project. My experience is secondhand — part of the ripple effect of gun violence. But I’ve come to the conclusion that the secondhand stories are important too. For every firsthand experience, there are likely multiple secondhand experiences, and that likelihood implies that the gun violence epidemic is more widespread than we sometimes realize.
I was on the Navy Yard on Sept 16, 2013, in a building nearby, when a lone gunman killed 12 people and then was killed by police. Five years later, and it’s still surreal. Every shooting that has happened since then makes me unable to catch my breath. Every helicopter that flies overheard makes me shudder. Every day I go to work, I pass places where people were murdered and feared for their lives in ways no one should ever have to.
I hid alone in an interior office for most of the day, not knowing what was really happening due to masses of misinformation. I was texting my family that I was currently safe, but having no idea what was happening outside. Then, the police evacuation was more traumatic than anything I’ve ever experienced. They thought there were still gunmen on the loose. Guns everywhere, pointed at me point blank, men screaming at me to “Get down! On the ground!” I find myself forgetting to breathe, just typing this.
And then I remember: Mine is a SECONDHAND experience. Multiply my trauma by millions, and you might begin to understand a fraction what others have experienced.