Yesterday was a very scary and sad day in our area. Once again our country was faced with an active shooter incident and this time it was close to home. A lot of us spent the day sending texts to make sure friends and loved ones were safe and accounted for.
It struck me, as I was dropping off D at practice last night and jumping in and out of facebook throughout the day, how people need to make a connection to the event when a tragedy happens.
A good friend walked up to me at the field and commented that the NAVSEA building hosted one of her clients. She had posted it earlier on facebook and I noticed another friend commented that her husband's clients were in building 197 too. As I walked through the field to get D from baseball and off to soccer, I overheard pockets of conversation about who they knew there and how they experienced this sad and terrifying day. It reminded me of how people re-tell their "where were you" stories from September 11th.
I felt compelled to mention to my friend that my brother-in-law was 6 blocks away and was also on lockdown, and that the husband of a third grade teacher at our school whose son is A's best friend was in the building. He was feet away from the gunman. He heard him click his gun. The other connections to the tragedy came easily.
K saw all the police cars rushing to the scene on his way to work only a few miles away.
I have been on the Navy Yard installation many times. I worked a few blocks from the main gate. One of the pictures shows a man lying in the street right next to my old building. I've walked those streets on the tv screen constantly many times.
My client's whole existence is based on the shooting at Ft. Hood. I read about and study acts of terrorism, violence and the things we do to mitigate them every day. The terms "shelter-in-place" and "active shooter" are part of my daily lexicon.
However, nobody directly related to me was killed or actually there. Why did I feel the need to make a connection to the tragic event and share that with others? In some ways it becomes the Kevin Bacon game or how many degrees of separation we can achieve.
It also, of course, reminded me of the accident. Perfect strangers have come up to me to establish the connection to my sister or the girls. Other people mention to me that another person has told them all about the accident and their own story and remote connection our family. I still get the "we're praying for all of you" from people I don't even know. It feels intrusive, like they are taking a piece of our tragedy and making their own. It drives me crazy.
Didn't I do the same thing yesterday? Is this simply human nature? Despite my very real connections to yesterday's events, this was not my tragedy. I am not sitting at home reeling in the first moments of shocking grief wondering how this could have happened.
M doesn't like to tell people her story. While most people know that I am her aunt, we still sometimes feel the need to explain that I'm not her mom and the boys aren't her brothers. Recently, we've been dealing with it on her new soccer team. As 13 year girls will do, some of her new teammates have gotten upset hearing the news and there was a crying incident at soccer camp this summer. This infuriates M.
"I don't understand Aunt Peg. I'm not crying so they don't need to. It's not THEIR story, it's mine."
I'm determined from this point on as more about the Navy Yard shooting unfolds NOT to make this my story. I feel for those families that lost a loved one in such a senseless act. I certainly know how that feels. I also will try to send positive thoughts to those families who sat for hours wondering if their loved ones were safe. I hope for healing for those who actually lived through the day both as first responders and Navy Yard personnel.
I'm going to learn from my very wise niece. It's not my story. We can only handle one tragedy around these parts anyway.