Yesterday at 1:39, I got a text from my friend Lauren that said, “Needed at work today. Pray for me!” Lauren is an ICU nurse at UMC and a new Mommy. She and I have talked a few times recently about how hard it is to be both of those things and a million other things all at once. So it seemed like a normal enough request. I sent her a text letting her know that I’d pray, said a quick prayer, then got in my car to drive home.
As I was driving, I looked back through a few other texts I had on my phone. One of them was from Roommate Amy from Texas. It said, “No one was at the Safeway, right?” I assumed she’d texted me accidentally, and really intended to contact someone in the same state she was in, so I responded by asking if she was talking to me. Then, I checked my voice mail, which had a message from my dad saying that Gabrielle Giffords had been shot in the head at a Safeway near my house. The news was saying that something like 12 other people had also been shot and 19 total were injured.
It’s moments like those that I regret not paying for cable tv.
I texted Amy back to let her know that I’d just found out about the shooting and that I thought everyone we knew was okay, then I hurried home to watch the news with Roommate Alix on her computer.
And there it was: my Safeway. The one where I bought my first package of Picante Ramen Noodles. The news channels posted images of my Safeway for awhile and then switched over to the shooter. He was a 22-year-old from my neighborhood. He lived within walking distance of my childhood house. He went to my Junior High and High School, and I don’t know how long he’s lived here, but very possibly my elementary school. I didn’t know him or Gabrielle Giffords. I did write a letter to Representative Giffords once – urging her not to sign the thing that she signed anyways that cut funding to abstinence ed. She responded to me with a form letter that didn’t address any of my points… or the fact that I’d be losing my job if she signed. A good friend of mine did some work with her campaign awhile back and knew her and Gabe Zimmerman, who was killed.
And do you know what struck me? A boy from my neighborhood went to my Safeway and shot my representative and a bunch of other people – who were taken to UMC, where my friend tried to keep them alive. And while none of it really touched me directly, I couldn’t help but hurt.
I prayed for Lauren all day – that God would work through her hands, that He’d make her efficient and precise, that He’d comfort her as she tried to comfort others, that He’d heal the wounded and make it better.
But life went on. I met a friend for coffee and spent more time talking about Love than I think I have in the past several years. We talked about romance and warm fuzzies because this friend thinks she’s in love, and I tried to redirect her always to the love of a Father, Savior, and God. We journaled together and talked about plans we’d made to go Salsa dancing later that night. I didn’t want to go anymore, but having planned the event, felt like I had to.
After coffee, I went home and watched the news some more with Roommate Alix. At some point, we went into the kitchen to eat and talked for a few minutes about romance (because single girls can’t seem to think about anything else)… and out of the blue, I interrupted our conversation to say, “I wish Gabrielle Giffords was unshot.”
I felt like a child saying that. I felt stupid. Like I didn’t understand that it wasn’t possible. But the thing is that I still feel it. I woke up this morning wishing that every bullet was unshot. I feel a sense of injustice that I haven’t felt in years. A sense of smallness and impotence. My head can accept that tragedies happen, but my heart won’t allow it. “It didn’t happen,” my heart cries out in disbelief. “Gabrielle Giffords needs to be unshot.”