I survived a shooting yesterday.
Even as I read my own words, it’s tough to stomach that the last twenty four hours actually transpired. I read about shootings all the time in America because honestly — how can you not with the frequency at which they occur? Yet, I never anticipated finding myself in one so soon.
I want to give you a glimpse into my head during the incident. The questions that spiraled through my mind were unfathomable. It horrifies me to realize that children have been forced to face similar thoughts.
This piece is not eloquent, and that’s because trying to not die in a shooting is inherently not eloquent.
Clang, clang, clang.
What is that? It sounds almost like steel balls being tossed against a wall. Are those gunshots…? Holy shit, it’s literally coming from just outside our meeting room. People are running. Shit, they’re definitely gunshots then. Is this really happening? My phone’s a few inches from my hand, will taking a fraction of a second to grab it be the difference between life or death? Screw it, I absolutely need it to communicate with people just in case. Anything could happen from here on out. What if I die, and miss the chance to say anything to my family and friends ever again?
I sprint out of the meeting room, tailing my colleagues. Everyone’s frantically bolting through the office. Which way should I run? Left? Right? My colleagues are heading into this room, so I’ll follow their lead. My mind is racing yet numb as I watch them barricade the door. I find an open spot on the floor to curl up into a ball. The questions in my head won’t stop: Am I in the most optimal hiding spot in the room? Is it safer to be on this side, or towards the opposing wall? What if the shooter walks by outside and spots us, will we all die? If we move, will the shooter notice us? What if she’s on the same floor as us? Is she walking the halls outside this door right now? What’s the noise, was that her? I’m shaking. Shit, I hope that wasn’t her.
Suddenly the thought dawns on me. What if we never make it out of this room?
I need to contact my family and best friends, now. I’m shaking and my fingers aren’t working properly, but I hope they see through the typos. English isn’t my mother’s first language and I can’t type in Chinese — will she fully grasp the urgency of this situation? I’m messaging my family but no response. How much info do I provide anyway? How much info is too much info? Is it too dramatic to tell them I love them? What if these are my last words? Fuck it, I’m going to tell them I do and hope my brother fills her in on the rest.
How long has it been? Twenty minutes? Thirty? Do we just wait? How long will we be stuck in here for? Will the police save us? Does the outside world know about this yet? Should I tweet? Are people going to think I’m a stereotypical millennial for tweeting while I wait, paralyzed and barricaded? Do I really give a shit what they think? What if I don’t get the chance to say anything again? Others are tweeting, fuck it. I have a right to tell my friends and followers across the world, it’s literally about my life.
But seriously, how long has it been? Am I feeling firsthand the deceptively long stretch of time while hiding that Emma Gonzalez alluded to with her speech? Time truly feels frozen right now. Did the police catch the shooter yet? What if the shooter finds us? Will the police come get us first? Are my colleagues okay? Were there any fatalities? I hope they are okay, I hope every single person in the office is okay. It’s not fucking fair if I get to live because I had a meeting and they didn’t because they went to lunch. Please, PLEASE let them be okay.
The sirens won’t stop ringing, a constant reminder that I am still not safe.
I hear something. Are those men’s voices at the door? The shooter is allegedly female, does this mean they’re definitely the police? The door finally opens. Is it safe to exit the room and walk through the lobby, into the open? Has the shooter been caught? What if she’s around the corner and kills me while I’m trying to escape? Why are the cops yelling at us to put our hands up? If I accidentally don’t hold my hands up, will they shoot me because the suspect is female? Will they think the phone in my hoodie pocket is a gun? Is that blood on the steps? Did I just step in a colleague’s blood? The incessant questions and paranoia continue as I exit the building and head down the stairs.
Where do I go now? Do I keep my hands up now that I’m outside? Will the shooter find me in this corner out here? It’s cold, but I’m too scared to go in the sun without cover. How did all these reporters get here so fast? Have they no shame? Who are these people? And are they really vlogging? Wait, did the shooter get caught yet? Am I actually safe? I don’t feel safe. What if she’s still active? How do I get home? Maybe I can get a ride home with my coworker. I just want to be home and away from here as soon as possible.
I’m finally home. Did today really happen? It doesn’t feel real. I might still be in shock. How am I emotionally going to process this? I’m not hysterically sobbing yet, so when is it going to hit me? How do I respond to the hundreds of messages from people? My mind is numb and my responses might not sound grateful. Am I going to have a meltdown in the upcoming week? Will I be scared of loud, banging noises now? What if I get mild PTSD? I don’t want PTSD. How do I mitigate potential PTSD?
Is it messed up that I’m grateful that they didn’t have a more powerful gun?
In retrospect, I am so glad I was wearing sneakers today. What would’ve happened if I were wearing platform boots? Maybe I should start wearing sneakers everyday… in case this happens again.
What do I do when this happens again?