Turns out, I don’t like getting shot at.
I mean, you think you don’t like getting shot at. You assume you don’t like getting shot at. But how do you know you don’t like getting shot at until, well, you’re shot at?
As in shot at, shot at.
By a man with a gun.
While you’re in a crowd with your kids.
Friends, now I can be sure. My suppositions were sound. I DO NOT LIKE GETTING SHOT AT.
I do not like getting shot at SO MUCH that I don’t even care I’m ending my sentences with a preposition. As my kids would’ve said when they were little, that is a lot of much, Mom. That is a LOT OF MUCH of not liking getting shot at.
And you know what I like even less than being shot at? My kids being shot at; that’s what.
I like my kids and my friends’ kids and strangers’ kids being shot at WAY LESS than I enjoy being shot at. Which is really saying something considering how little I like getting shot at.
We went to a women’s high school soccer game last night in our small hometown.
It was the first game of the season on a moody weather day, and I arrived a few minutes early as a rainbow fell on the field filled with kids I’ve known their whole lives. We came to watch them and to cheer them as the rain clouds made dramatic entrances and exits, chased sporadically by molten rays of a setting sun.
It’s been a busy week following months of busy weeks — the go, go, GO of summer on all fronts — and it felt good to rest for a bit with friends and family while the cold from the aluminum stands seeped through our clothes and we snuggled into our blankets. It felt good to rest and to beckon fall closer. To chat and banter. To stand for the national anthem. To clap politely for the other team and cheer wildly for our girls as they took to the field in their school colors and their clashing neon shoes.
I did what I usually do at games like these, keeping a loose eye on the field, editing photos on my phone, and denying my kids’ incessant requests for food from the snack bar. “Popcorn only,” I said a thousand thousand times to cries of but WHY and pllleeeEEEEeese? And I was in the middle of threatening to revoke future game attendance privileges unless the begging ceased and desisted when the players all stopped, whipped their heads to look at… something… and then, at the order of the officials, ran off the field.
The crowd rose too, en masse, and began exiting the stands. Lightning, I thought. It has to be lightning. Because what else would the popping sound be? And of course they’d get the players off the field and the crowd out of the metal stands in a lightening storm. The weather was bizarre, after all, and just because I didn’t see the flash of lightening didn’t mean it wasn’t there.
I kept my littles beside me, urging them to hurry and follow directions as we made our way to safety from the storm.
Just a different kind of storm than I thought, because, as we crowded inside the high school, we kept hearing whispers of gun. “Nope,” I said, “it was lightning” because I couldn’t wrap my head around gunshots. It simply didn’t compute. More and more, though, the whispers became reality. We’d fled a man shooting at us, and we were taking refuge together.
Outside, police from multiple jurisdictions converged on the scene. My teenage daughter, who’d left the game briefly to get coffee, returned and was herded into the building at the last second by police “holding those big guns, Mom; the ones you see in the movies” as we were led to a more secure location and put into lockdown.
It was surreal.
I mean, lockdown as a precaution, sure. I get that. And lockdown for practice, yes. But lockdown for real? Sort of… unbelievable.
I began texting updates to the mamas and dads of the teens who were there without their parents so they’d know we were safe and calm and well cared for.
And we were.
We were safe and calm and well cared for because men and women in uniform ran toward the danger instead of away from it. Ran toward the danger immediately. Ran toward the danger on our behalf. Ran toward the danger in our stead. And I sat in our lockdown room humbled and grateful and less scared for knowing they were there. Humbled and grateful to know they live this out every day of their lives and that this thing which is an anomaly for me and mine — shots fired — is, for them, an ongoing possibility. An ongoing reality.
I went to bed last night with my youngest babies, the three of us snuggled close, safe and warm, with stacks of pillows and blankets and soft sighs and slow breaths, gangly 8-year-old limbs whacking me periodically in the face or the bladder. Greg asked if we were letting them stay in bed with us for the night, and I said, “Yes. New family rule: if you get shot at, you get to sleep with mommy all night long.” Which may make it awkward should they go into military or police service someday, but I’m sure the brass will understand why I must go with them to Afghanistan or inner city Los Angeles and why they’re required to provide for us a family bed once I get there; I’ll just explain we have a long-standing family rule. They’ll get it. I’m sure of it.
I let my oldest go back out last night, too, in a fit of stunning bravery on my part, but I also insisted she stay in our neighborhood because that’s as far as my heart could let her venture even though the danger was over. “Why?” she texted. “Why just our neighborhood?” And I texted back, “I have literally no good reason. I just want you where I know you’re safe for a night.”
Tomorrow, my littles will be back in their own beds and my high school senior will have a wider area to roam again. Tomorrow, I’ll be even braver than I am today. Tomorrow, I’ll add more soccer games to my calendar, and football games in the same stands. Tomorrow, I’ll be one step further than I am from this today.
Today, though, I’m just going to breathe and listen to my kids breathe and be grateful for the gift breath is.
Today, I’m going to be grateful for those who put themselves in harm’s way and those who work for peace in our communities.
Today, I’m going to remember that there are families in Syria and around the world who live in uncertainty and fear for their lives not just for a moment at a soccer game, but every minute of every day.
Today, I’m going to lift my heart and my fears and my gratitude to God because I don’t know what else to do.
And today, I’m going to invite you to join me.
UPDATE: Thank you for all your heartfelt emails, Facebook comments and comments here on the blog. I appreciate you and your words more that I can express.
The man fired the gun was arrested the same night as the incident. He has since been released and is pending trial on several counts, some felonies, some misdemeanors. It appears he was drunk and was shooting at a tree.
While I know many of our community feel outraged, and rightfully so, I just feel sad for him and for all of us. I know what it is to fuck things up, friends — royally — and although I’ve never endangered people physically like he did two nights ago, I’ve certainly done my share of emotional damage to those I desperately love, and so I feel I share intimately in the destruction of others through my own foolishness even though I sometimes intended no harm.
We are, all of us, made from light and from darkness, the capacity to do great good and great harm intermingled. We are, all of us, made in the image of God — divine to the marrow of our bones — and also oh so very human with all its deep perfection and fallability. We are, all of us, grand fuck-ups and wholly worthy of constant, abiding love.
My children and I — and friends and family and strangers — were wronged the other night. And yet I find myself only able to offer gratitude that we are physically unharmed and compassion and sorrow for the man who fucked this up. The law can be in charge of the consequences; I will lay that down and believe for him, like I believe for all of us, that we are redeemable.