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Too Close to Home

October 29, 2018

I woke up at 10:41 a.m. Overslept, again. For some reason my alarm isn’t actually ringing. I should look into that.

I begin my obligatory perusal of social media. There is no better form of procrastination, first thing in the morning, when you would rather lay in your bed for the rest of time than actually get up and resume the daily grind.

First, Instagram. Business as usual: a healthy mix of cute Halloween costumes, sorority big/little reveals and gameday group pics.

Next, Twitter. Memes, gifs, witty comments and relatable posts galore.

Then, Facebook. I check my notifications. A million from various groups, but nothing jumps out at me. I go to my main feed. I almost scroll past a Facebook Live, per usual, reposted by one of my old dance teachers, when I see the tagline. The words Butler High School, shooting and fatal hit my stream of consciousness all at once. I instantly tap the video. My screen turns into a window to the horrific and unimaginable. Cop cars outside the local high school. Text messages from frantic students to terrified parents. An Instagram story of what started as a standard school fight between two parties, until one drew a handgun and stole the young life of the other.

Every day, our lives are filled with second-hand tragedy. We see horror and terror through the lens of a computer screen, broadcast reporter or witness testimony. Yet we feel every injury and every death as if it was someone we knew, someone we loved. We are empathetic beings, and we feel pain acutely.

But I was always used to the slight comfort of feeling untouchable. Everything bad was happening outside of my house, outside of my school, outside of my town. I had room to breathe, to not worry about my parents, my brothers, my best friends at every waking moment. I found so much comfort in the classic bubble effect: thinking that I, and everyone closest to me, are perpetually safe from any danger. A school shooting was the last thing that I would ever imagine affecting my life. That’s when the bubble popped.

I went to Providence High School in Charlotte. Butler High School was the school 10 minutes away, close to my dance studio, close to Costco and close to my own house. My best friend lived in the neighborhood across the street from mine, and she was zoned for Butler. (We always used this anecdote as an example of how we lived on the literal borders between towns and almost would have gone to the same school.)

Hearing that the horrors always experienced outside the perimeter of my safe bubble of security were now transpiring a mere 15 minutes from my childhood home, the home that my parents, my siblings and my dog still live in…I immediately called my mom and couldn’t say anything. Neither could she.

My heart empathizes with the towns who experience this suffering. A school shooting is the most profound form of heartbreak. An evil seeking to harm the youngest, the most innocent, the most blameless population. When this happens, you see the pictures. Entire towns in mourning, reaching out for the families of those most affected. Masses of people connected by a collective heartbreak, lessening individual pain by the reassurance that they are not alone. I feel for these towns. I want to help these towns, get down on my knees and pray for these towns.

But never my town.

I feel for the schools. Students suddenly wrenched from the comfort of their safety bubbles with the awareness that “it could’ve been me.” Entire student bodies losing valuable souls, so each student feels they lost part of themselves, part of their identity. Alumni weep for the fate of students who will never graduate and who will never join them. Students weep for the tragedy of their school, suddenly tainted by an unparalleled evil, never to be the same.

But never in my best friend’s school. Never in my own school’s rival. Never in the school I could have attended had my family chosen a house one mile down the street or had the cartographer missed the demarcation line between school zones by a few centimeters.

Tragedy hit too close to home for me today. I never again can live under the illusion of my immunity to suffering. As long as evil exists in the world, the people I love, the people that I can’t help but feel heartbreak for and I are at risk.

I can’t pretend that I am not affected anymore. I can’t pretend to be indifferent to the undeniable issues behind these seemingly “senseless” tragedies. Today, my consciousness came out of a deep hibernation, suppressed by the menial tasks and stresses of life in the here and now.

But no more.


Maddie Ellis

Chapel Hill '22

Maddie is a freshman at UNC. Ready to take on a new journalistic pursuit, she is so excited to join Her Campus. Maddie is an English major, and she is also involved in Carolina for the Kids #morale! Maddie loves classic literature, horoscopes, and her planner, and if she is not writing or reading, she can probably be found at a group fitness class or Chopt.
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