We are sixteen and feeling every inch of our earned adolescent angst. Without blinking an eye we select the scariest film on the marque…Nightmare on Elm Street. I pay my $4, tossing a full hour of work behind Kenney‘s Shoes cash register on the counter. After ordering a butter-free popcorn with raisinete chaser I’m all ready to settle into the scare fest. There are four of us gathered and we choose our usual spot, right hand side middle row on the end closest to the track lighting.
It is 1987. The theatre is crowded. Sold out. We are comfortable. In our school girl banter we confirm and deny rumors and judge gossips. It is our girl’s night. An earned night out after a week of rehearsal and work and school and boys and tests. We are taking time just for ourselves to be ourselves. Don’t know how Freddy Krueger got invited to this girls only party, but for once I’m going with the flow. The lights dim. That’s when the argument starts.
…bought over the counter, after Holmes passed a background check.
They are shouting and people are asking them to please just be quiet so we can all watch the movie. They are not listening. We are nestled in our corner. Quiet. Waiting. The lights come back on and the manager tells them to settle down or leave the theatre. Its a no brainer. No argument is worth missing Freddy slash and burn a dozen or more teens on screen. They settle down. They lights once again go down. Previews begin.
Bang. Bang. Bang. The shots ring out. Someone has discharged their gun in the air. People drop to the floor. I tell them, we need to get out of here. They are scared and screaming. I push but I don’t shove. We duck but we don’t move. People are running and crawling. You hear someone shouting, They shooting in the movie! They shooting in the movie! It is chaos. The shooter runs out. We call home from the pay phone in the lobby. Moments pass before our ride arrives. We do not give a statement. We do not wait for the next movie. We are not rushed to the hospital. No one screens us for ptsd. We are driven home. In the car we pray. Thank You God. Thank You God. Thank You God.
As a teenager I had the misfortune of being in the line of fire twice while going to the movies. I imagine that neither gunman completed a background check prior to purchasing the guns used to scare and harm people who only wanted to enjoy a film. People via the encouragement of the media’s portrayal of urban communities wrongfully assume that city dwellers are use to violence. That we in fact are immune to it. These assumptions are wrong.
When someone fires a weapon, no matter the space or community, it scares the shit out of everyone in hearing range. Every. Time. To be in the line of fire is a traumatic occurrence no matter how many times you have experience it, hear about it or watch it on the news. A part of you breaks away and hides. Humans killing humans due to psychotic break, rage, sport, revenge or materialistic gain harms.
In my lifetime, I’ve witnessed the evolution of home protection weaponry go from a shotgun to a Saturday night special to a glock to a semi-automatic rifle. I’ve known individuals who in a fit of rage reached for the gun purchased to protect their home from strangers invading but instead pulled the trigger on someone they loved. And I’ve counseled families after their children were found dead or injured after taking the ‘protection’ in its hiding place as well as supported others in the aftermath of a hunting trip gone wrong.
Guns are weapons. They are not toys. They are not accessories. When fired the aim is to harm, maim, kill. Psychopaths should not have access to high powered automatic weapons. Neither should children. What really is the justification for the manufacturing of high powered automatic weapons for nonmilitary consumers?
Tonight at 12:26 am my son will breath his first breath as a 5 year old. I am wondering what the evolution in weaponry will bring in 10 years, when he is 15 and by all medical accounts a full 6′ tall. As a tall and lanky African American male while still a child will he be mistaken as a man? Will America have changed her views on African American maleness and embrace him as a boy with dreams and jokes all his own? Or will he have to combat stereotypes and racial profiling and God forbid a Zimmerman-like psycho vigilante who passed a background check at Gander Mountain?
Do I now have to teach my son how not to wear a hoodie as well as restrict his movie visits to 10 am showings or keep him sequestered with home schooling and purchased DVD‘s? Do I hide away? Do I fight? Do we work together so that horrific tragedies like Columbine, Virgina Tech, now Aurora and the annual murder rate in Chicago will end?
The answer won’t be simple. I know it. Any thinking person knows it. But for all our sakes, it’s definitely worth continuous effort.