Active shooter. I hear the phrase way, way too often.
My husband’s school had an active shooter drill yesterday. My daughter’s hospital had an armed gunman rob the cafeteria on Tuesday night.
And then last night, an active shooter killed himself and another, and injured a third in a UAB hospital on the second floor.
The second floor is the O.R.
Three of my daughter’s best friends and med school roommates just happen to be surgical residents at UAB: one, ortho; another, ENT; a third, neuro. All three perform procedures at that satellite hospital.
In the O.R.
The thing about surgical residents – and I guess all residents in nearly every medical program — is that the doctors rotate between a whole group of satellite hospitals, making it difficult for family and friends to keep up with which physical location a specific physician is at during any given month – or sometimes week or even day.
This UAB Highlands Hospital shooting left me and my own daughter very rattled. Very. We were both so worried for the three young doctors we know and adore. I can’t even imagine being the parent of one of them and not knowing if he or she were at that location that night. Especially because when surgeons are in the OR, they are cut off from all communication. Therefore, it might be hours before a mom would know if her child was safe or not. (The very reason I heard about the shooting was because the mom of one of Caitlin’s roommates posted a live update online, asking for prayers.)
So I prayed and texted and called and prayed some more. Until I heard back from my daughter who finally heard back from all her friends. Thankfully, each was safe and sound and at other locations.
There were other friends and families out there who learned that their loved ones were not okay. And that is absolutely not okay.
And the entire scenario played out like something out of Grey’s Anatomy. Very, very much like something Shonda Rhimes already wrote and produced years ago.
Only it happened last night. And it was real.
Real gunshots, real lockdown, real medical professionals shot – not just actors playing them on tv. There were even electrical outages. And emergency surgeries on the spot. With cell phones for light. Heroic measures were taken. Ortho surgeons performed trauma surgery. On the scene. Trauma surgeons tagged in.
This was the stuff of sound stage and scriptwriting, not real life.
But it was. It is.
This is the America of the twenty-first century. Where every day we hear more stories of gun violence in more and more places: schools, hospitals, offices, streets, restaurants, theaters, concerts, churches.
The locations vary, but the people and results are the same: disgruntled, mentally unstable individuals shooting bullets into people. People of all ages, all colors, all religions, all political views, all walks of life. People who support gun rights and people who support gun control. People who in minutes become victims, become patients, or worse, become bodies.
What will it take for us to finally DO something about all these victims, all these bodies, all this senseless death?
And I’m not one of those people who believe guns don’t have a place in America. I’m not one to demand guns be taken away.
But I do believe there should be limits to the number of weapons people have in their homes. And I do believe that all weapons (particularly hand guns) should be in gun safes. And I do believe those gun safes should be mandatory. And I do believe that the age limit for buying ANY gun should be raised to twenty-one. And I do believe there should be rigorous mental health screenings prior to the purchase of any guns. And I do believe that if a person exhibits risky behavior and unsound judgement (including drunk driving and aggravated assault arrests), that their mental health should be reevaluated.
What I do NOT believe is that we should add more guns. I do NOT think people should be allowed to stockpile weapons. I do NOT think we should arm teachers (I am a teacher, and in my expert opinion, I am here to say that would be a serious mistake.) I do NOT think we should arm churchgoers. Or allow guns in bars (heaven help!) or have open carry permits (that’s just inviting trouble!).
We do NOT need modern-era vigilantes who think they are gun experts because “I’ve been around them all my life” or because somebody has attended a three-hour gun safety course or because they’ve been offered paid incentive by the POTUS to carry a firearm. I don’t want any of these people in charge of my personal wellbeing. I do NOT believe that the answer is more guns.
All of what I’ve said makes sense to me, though I’m no expert on guns and gun violence. But I do know that if we keep staying the course, we will keep stacking the corpses.
Something’s gotta give here in these oh-so-un-United States. Here in the land of the free and the home of the semi-automatic weapon. Here in the land of the brave who hide behind gun barrels. Here in the land where we have more guns than citizens (and we’re losing more people every day, but don’t seem to be losing a single gun), something’s gotta give.
The UAB shooting really hit home for me last night.
It’s a terrifying time to be a mother.
It’s also a terrifying time to be a teacher. And a student. And a theater-goer. And a church member. And a shopper. And a jogger. And a… well, you get the picture.
It’s just a terrible time to be an American.