My Fear of Mass Shootings has Consumed My Life

I was only four years old. It was 2002 when my life switched from innocence to fear. This marked the moment when I began to be apprehensive about leaving my house and going outside into the world. I was only four years old when my mother, brother, and I were running zig-zag in a parking lot just to avoid being shot by the infamous D.C. sniper. Soon after that, a father in my community shot and killed his two sons. That moment was foreshadowing a life of being in constant fear of being caught up in a mass shooting.

I was only nine years old. I was in gym class when I overheard my teacher talking to her colleague about a mass shooting at one of the most popular and respected universities in the state that I live in – Virginia Tech. It was 2007 when this school became a victim of a ruthless massacre. This was the first mass shooting that I fully remember. I also remember watching media coverage about the incident, experiencing pain and sorrow, and noticing how the community grew closer by grieving together. “These mass shootings are affecting my state,” I thought as an innocent nine year old; why was I worrying about atrocities at such a young age?

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I was only 14 years old. In 2012, I had recently gotten back from a two-week trip in Colorado. I was visiting my grandparents and cousins in Golden, Colorado. Towards the end of my trip, I clearly remember driving through the neighboring city, Aurora. I did not think much of it; I would have never in a million years thought that this town would be covered on live, 24-hour coverage television networks. About a week after I arrived home, I turned on the news to find Aurora synonymous to a deadly mass shooting. I was in shock. This is when I realized that mass shootings were only two steps behind everyone; it could easily sneak up on us in places we would have never thought, like I did with Aurora. I began to feel unsafe anywhere I went.

I was only 15 years old. During the same year of the Aurora shooting, a man walked into an elementary school and fatally shot 20 first-graders. This was the first mass shooting that made me break down and cry, pleading my parents to explain to me why this form of evil happens in this world. The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School hit me to the core harder than the previous mass shootings mentioned.  My outlook on life changed; these events were now inevitable.

I was only 18 years old. It was any normal day in 2016 and I got another CNN alert on my phone – there was another mass shooting. A nightclub in Orlando, Florida has become a yet another victim. This is when it began to feel like a routine. At this point, I began to be accustomed to the aftermath of a mass shooting: mourning, public outcry, political debates, and then it slowly fading away into another statistic. I was so afraid that I was becoming desensitized to these tragedies. I felt sad, yet indifferent. I felt compelled to do something, yet too exhausted to keep voicing my opinion and taking action. I thought to myself that that these consistent mass shootings were turning me into a bad, emotionless human being.

I was only 19 years old. 58 concertgoers in Las Vegas were ripped away from this planet. This was the first mass shooting where I began to watch videos taken from the survivors point-of-view. I cannot explain the damage this had on my mental health. I began to play these videos on repeat, trying to feel the fear the concertgoers felt; it was not fair for them to go through that, thus I believed that if I watched the videos, I could take some of the pain away. My fear began to consume my life and the Las Vegas shooting made me view life in a negative manner. Due to an increase in panic attacks and worsening of depression, I realized that the pain of watching media coverage about this tragedy began to show physical affects. It became much more than just a fear.

I am only 20 years old. The mass shootings I have mentioned are not even scratching the surface of the amount of the mass shootings that have happened during my lifetime. I am only 20 years old and another mass school shooting has happened. Parkland, Florida was forcibly put on the list of infamous mass shootings because a senseless teenager shot up his former high school. 17 young souls were stripped away from their radiant lives and endless opportunities. This particular mass shooting is much more than grieving; it is outrage with gun laws, law enforcement mistakes, and mental health policies. This mass shooting has prompted more anger than sadness among the victims and the rest of the nation. This shooting not only solidified my fear of being at school, but it has also sparked anger in me because I am tired of seeing innocent lives be taken away. I do not know the solution to this problem, although I do know that a solution is on the horizon. This may take days, weeks, months, or years. I will try to be patient until then. I am only 20 years old and my generation has witnessed far too much sadness, carnage, and fear.