Monday began like all my days – 5 a.m. quiet time with a cup a coffee and reading of the scripture. I felt pretty good but then my mind turned to work as it always does, and that meant checking my email.
Twenty people attending a concert in Las Vegas had been killed. As if that weren’t bad enough, television news provided an update: 50 people were dead, 200 injured in what officials were calling the worst mass shooting in American history.
By noon, there were 58 confirmed dead and more than 500 injured and all I could do to keep from weeping was shake my head.
My only solace was Romans 8:26: “The Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”
Relatives of the alledged gunman, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, were as dumbfounded as the rest of us.
“We are in complete shock, bewilderment and horror. We have absolutely no idea how in the world Steve did this. Absolutely no concept,” said one of them was quoted as saying. “He’s just a guy who played video poker and took cruises and ate burritos at Taco Bell. There’s no political affiliation that we know of. There’s no religious affiliation that we know of.”
In other words, Paddock, found dead by officers on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, was just like you and me – an ordinary guy.
What set him off? Who knows.
What we do know is times have changed, that this in many ways is our new normal. Not only are we deeply divided as a nation, we’re scared.
You could feel it from every eyewitness who gave their account of what happened in the hours after the shooting on “Good Morning America.”
Michelle Schmidt said that she and her friend Wendy Reid, who stood with her during the interview with Robin Roberts, attend country music festivals all time.
But what she said next revealed a lot about where we are now.
“I always had in the back of my mind something like this would happen,” Schmidt said.
Seth Davin Norrholm, an associate professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Emory University School of Medicine, said it’s a normal human reaction to feel horrified, to feel scared, to feel sad about such incidents.
“What’s important after that is to take some time to debrief, to let your rational mind take over for a few minutes,” he said. “Obviously when there is a large gathering of people there is always the possibility that something bad will happen. But you’re more likely to fall and hit your head than you are to be killed in a mass shooting or terrorist attack. Statistically, that’s just a fact.”
You won’t likely find me at a concert or any event where there are thousands of people, except maybe church and the Southern Miss homecoming but I’m starting to feel a little uneasy, too.
I used to never have such thoughts when I attend church but that’s changed, especially since Charleston.
Recently I shared with my husband this eerie feeling I get when I approach the new Falcons stadium. I’m not suggesting something might happen there but it crossed my mind.
What I really worry about are my two adult daughters who like nothing more than being in the mix. I doubt very much anything scares them. And while I certainly don’t advocate living life in fear, I’m constantly telling them to be aware of their surroundings as if that alone will keep them out of harm’s way.
Honestly, I don’t know what else to do. That’s my best advice because locking them away is totally unreasonable.
I connected with Michelle Schmidt because I know her reaction was a very human one. It’s hard not to be scared.
Some of us are scared because in today’s 24 hour news cycle, crime, violence and horrific details reign supreme. Some are scared because we know firearms are as easy to get as a bag of Fritos. News reports said Stephen Paddock had more than 10 rifles in his hotel room. And others are scared of having their guns taken away.
We know such carnage has walked into our schools, our malls, our workplaces, and so we’re scared.
What a mess.
There’s no arguing we live in a dangerous world but because of the 24-hour news cycle we’ve become inundated with negative news stories, often back-to-back as we scroll through our news feeds, Norrholm said. When those stories get bunched together, we make connections between events that aren’t really related.
“We don’t even consider all the things that didn’t happen,” he said. “In other words, there have been countless concerts in which hundreds were not shot at and/or killed, thousands of flights that did not crash, and thousands of gathered crowds where nothing went wrong.
“We take risks every day of our lives,” Norrholm said. “You’re more likely to be hit by a car in a crosswalk than you are to be killed in a mass shooting or terrorist attack. Statistically speaking, it makes more sense to think about the things that have more to do with your daily life and things that we can control. So, my advice would be to process the tragic events for what they were, horrible isolated acts of violence, take the time to mourn, but keep a level head and perspective as you move forward.”
And when we’re done mourning, I hope we’ll finally deal with our other problem: who has access to guns and who doesn’t.