Editor’s note: On Tuesday, two students were killed and four others injured at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte by a gunman.
It’s our turn, Charlotte, to live the nightmare.
It’s our turn to see the breaking news email about gunfire, to feel the notification buzz on our phone, to be jolted that our city is included in the next words we read.
It’s our turn to watch aerial footage of places we’ve walked, to watch video loops of cautious police leading students we might know.
It’s our turn to pray that we don’t know the victims or shooter, then to pray for those who do.
It’s our turn to see tweets from our public officials who are “shocked and saddened,” from our governor who is en route to the scene, from our members of Congress who are “monitoring the situation.”
It’s our turn to have Gabby Giffords send her sorrow our way.
It’s our turn to type tweets or Facebook posts about students who went to class like every other student, about holding your child a little tighter tonight, and feel it a little more intimately this time.
It’s our turn to wonder what on earth we can do to change this, to wonder if better school security or mental health awareness or anything might stop this plague of gun violence.
It’s our turn to hope that this shooting might be that catalyst for change, perhaps even locally or with state lawmakers.
It’s our turn to realize that it won’t, that we’re no different than Red Lake or Santa Fe or so many others.
Except some things are different now.
It’s our turn to see that networks aren’t breaking in to programming to cover this school shooting, that Twitter isn’t putting snark on hold, that national newspapers aren’t going to put this tragedy on their front pages.
It’s our turn to realize that if that notification on our phone was about gunfire in another city, we too might have mentally swiped it away.
It’s our turn to understand that it’s no longer big news when someone walks into a classroom and starts firing, that mass shootings happen with such regularity that they’ve become more like all the other shootings with all the other guns.
It’s our turn to also understand that “thoughts and prayers” from Republicans have worked, just not the way we want. They’ve worked as a stall and diversion, a way to say something without having to say anything, until the next shooting happens and everyone moves on.
Because everyone does move on now. And they will again, more quickly each time. This is the new nightmare — that we’ve become deadened to the worst in us because it no longer feels like the worst. It’s just who we are, and it’s our turn to live it.