How long must we wait for change?

Photo courtesy of Rolling Stone | Copy Editor Savin Matozzi makes a statement about the numerous mass shootings that have been occurring with increasing frequency throughout 2017.

My phone buzzes in my pocket. I take it out and see the AP notification: Reports of shots fired at church, club, school, office building, park, university, protest, library, Wal-Mart or a restaurant. “Shit,” I think to myself, “I hope this one isn’t that bad.”

I take a screenshot of the notification. I text my friends, “Did you hear about the shooting in Texas, Orlando, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Newtown, New York, Virginia, Charleston, Colorado, D.C.?” “Yeah,” they respond, “I hope this one isn’t that bad.” My phone buzzes again. AP notification: Police reports of at least eight killed, 12 killed, 14 killed, 20 killed, 26 killed, 32 killed, 49 killed and 58 killed.

“Shit,” I say to myself, “this one is pretty bad.” I look for a live news broadcast so I can get information faster. There’s a newscaster sitting at a desk in a shiny newsroom with a somber face. “A shooter opened fire today, apparently shooting people at random.”

The camera switches to a frantic mother outside of the school, club, university, library, restaurant…“I don’t know where my son is. No one can tell me where my son is.” She’s gasping for a breath while sobbing each word. “He’s not answering his phone…I don’t know if he’s dead.” She looks at the camera, begging for an answer.

I start to think about the people being shot. Were they hiding? Did they try to escape? Maybe they played dead. Did anybody try to stop the attacker? Could they? What were their final words as they felt the attacker move closer to them and put the gun to their body? Did the kids understand what was going on?

Video interviews of relatives or neighbors of the shooter start appearing.

“He seemed like a quiet guy, never bothered anybody.”

“I always had a weird feeling about him.”

“He was an angry person.”

Then it’s the people in the community.

“This kind of stuff doesn’t happen here.”

“I never thought this kind of thing would happen here.”

“How could this happen here?”

I go to interview students about the shooting for the newspaper. I ask them:

“How did this one make you feel? Do you feel any less safe?

What do you think should be done about it?”

They look away and sigh. “It’s just the times we’re living in. I mean, I’m just so used to it now. It happens all the time. I’m just kind of numb to it at this point. What do I think should be done about it? I don’t know anymore. Do I feel any less safe? No, not really. You know those kinds of things never happen here.”

The next day, I walk to class, work, the park, the grocery store and look for ways out in case it does happen here.

Is this window big enough to climb through?

Three stories is a long fall. What would hurt more, being shot or falling onto the cement?

Could I hide behind this tree?

Could a bullet pierce this desk?

Should I sit in the front of the classroom to see the shooter first, or should I sit in the back and have an opportunity to escape?

What if I’m not the one who escapes?

What if my friends aren’t the ones who escape?

What if my niece and nephew aren’t the ones who escape?

Is the last image I’m going to see the underside of a table?

What am I going to say at my friend’s funeral?

“They were one of my closest friends. They had their whole life ahead of them, and it was stolen from them right in front of us.” I’d tell a story about how we’d used to have this one joke that nobody would understand, and we’d laugh. Now, there would be no more of that. No more jokes, because they were gone, and there is nothing I could do about it.

This pattern is endless. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. We have done nothing to prevent this. It’s as if we are tied to a chair and are watching the same car accident over and over and over again. Our inaction is killing us. How many people are going to have to die? 130? 200? 1000? Will that change anything? Would we even care then, or will we shrug it off with a sigh and give them our thoughts and prayers?

Hold on, my phone just buzzed.

Savin Mattozzi is a senior international studies major and copy editor for the Newswire from Portland, Maine.