I was 23 years old and working my third graveyard shift at an all-night diner in a beautiful college town out west. That night, one of the customers I’d been waiting on for hours shot and killed the janitor and injured another customer. I had refilled his coffee cup a dozen times without an inkling he was sitting there, killing time, waiting, stewing and plotting a shooting spree that ended with his death as well.
I have survivor’s guilt. I’ll never know why he waited until I was seated in a booth out of his sight before pulling out his gun. I remember visiting with the janitor at the counter for a few minutes, admiring pictures of his grandchildren, our backs to the man who would change everything for both of us. As for me, by the grace of all holy, I escaped on hands and knees, one last glance back at the shooter crouched behind a counter. I advocate for victims’ support, common-sense gun laws and improved mental health initiatives. And over the last 30 years, I’ve never once thought my life would be improved or safer by owning a gun.