A small memorial is seen on the grounds of the Orlando Regional Medical Center where many of the victims from the Pulse mass shooting were taken June 13, 2016 in Orlando, Florida.
The panic was palpable. The terror both mother and son felt evident in every word. The searing, wrenching flurry of texts punctuated by pockets of silence while the killer roamed, leaving the man paralyzed with fear and his mom miles away, wondering with worry -- was one of the most powerful exchanges I have ever read. Each weighty word, real-time text between a mother and her 30-year-old son who hid in the bathroom of The Pulse nightclub in Orlando -- hit like a brick. Heavy, crushing, final.
I read the story while sipping my morning tea. Daily ritual. It rattled me to my core. Leaving me to try to imagine what these families whose young relatives lives were abruptly shortened at the hands of a madman ---- while in the midst of enjoying themselves in a social atmosphere ---- what smothering grief these loved ones would suddenly know. Senseless. Final.
It was apparently the 14 time during his presidency that Barack Obama had to find words to address a mass shooting spree on American soil. Hundreds of lives lost. Many more families and friends left wondering why.
Reading the article describing in sharp detail the text change between mother and son, any parent can't help but insert themselves in a similar scenario. The one where a child texts you to say they have arrived somewhere perhaps, or they will be late, or their plans changed ---- whatever. Texts in my house are a several-times-a-day occurrence -- each child with whatever is important to them communicating that to me or my husband.
Just imagine that numbing fear the mother most have felt in the middle of the night receiving those short messages painting a picture of the terror her son was feeling. The chilling thought that he was trying to hide, save himself in the bathroom of The Pulse while he heard rounds of gunfire spraying young bodies on the other side of a thin wall. What sheer horror.
All of which begs several questions:
Should parents just stop trying to explain such inexplicable behaviour to children? Most adults don't understand it, how in the world can we be expected to explain it to our children.
Is ignoring these types of utterly incomprehensible acts a better course of action to preserve the 'childhood innocence' that appears increasingly to be fleeting?
Ask how can we possibly protect our children from such acts of outright hate? Hide the macabre headlines from them? Outlaw TV news-watching inside the home? Better yet cancel the cable subscription and put parental controls on internet use?
What advice should a parent give to their child who is experiencing some injustice be that in the schoolyard, online, at work, wherever? An eye for an eye is sure to do more harm than good, isn't it?
How should parents who wonder 'what else can I do' to ensure my kids are protected be answered? Terrorism is on one end of the spectrum, without question. But there are other acts, violent and non-violent, that happen in our communities, backyards, homes daily.
How are we, in our own way, contributing to this type of behaviour proliferating in society today?
Do we behave in selfish, self-centred, or dishonest ways and hope that because no one notices, that's OK? Do we say one thing and behave in the opposite manner? Do we derive pleasure from trying to one-up others, gain the advantage hand somehow -- be that in a sports arena, climbing up the corporate ladder, in traffic or on social media?
Do we knowingly or unknowingly sow the seeds of intolerance through small, 'insignificant' actions that will one day add up?
What is each of our role in the violence that surrounds us in society?
Is it accurate to assume that we all have a role?
Are we willing to modify our own behaviours in order to make a change for the greater good?
Does Eddie Justice's final texted words to his mom Mina move us to action?
"Mommy I love you,"
"In club they shooting."
"Trapp in bathroom," he wrote. "He's coming. I'm gonna die."
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