Last week, on October 1, 2017, the deadliest shooting massacre in modern United States history took place in Las Vegas. Devastatingly, 58 innocent lives were taken at Route 91, a country music concert at an outdoor pavilion.
The next day, Monday October 2, 2017, University of Southern California police sent out an alert around noon informing us that someone reported they had heard gunshots fired, and that the campus would go into lockdown. All the buildings automatically locked, and my instructor turned off our lights and dead bolted our classroom door.
A few minutes later, we heard the SWAT team descend upon the roof of our building, and were getting Twitter updates from fellow students and the local news showing students running frantically to find shelter, and dozens of police cars blocking off the roads surrounding campus.
— News Agency (@7billionpeoples) October 2, 2017
Shortly after, my phone began ringing off the hook with my friends and family on the East Coast calling to check in on me to make sure I was OK. That’s the power of news…it traveled so fast that they were getting updates just as I was living it.
The first thing that came to my mind was, “Jesus, this can’t be happening.” Though mass school shootings are unfortunately becoming more commonplace, I never thought it would become my reality. I didn’t think I would ever be caught in a scenario where I would have to exercise survival tactics, or wonder what I would do if a gunman tried to gain access to our classroom.
It frightened the hell out of me. My heart was beating, my stomach was queasy, my palms were sweaty…and yet, my instructor was trying to remain calm by continuing to teach us coding. I couldn’t focus.
Then, half an hour later, we got the alert that campus had been cleared, and no gunman was found. A professor, whose friends were killed in the Vegas shooting less than 24 hours before, was apparently suffering from trauma and potential PTSD, and had reported sounds of gunfire; which there were none.
You could hear an audible sigh of relief throughout campus. Seeing that the Vegas shooting was so fresh, and happened a short four-hour drive away from us, everyone was on edge, and rightfully so. The news of campus being cleared was welcomed, but this false report was eye-opening.
The takeaways from this event for one, made me realize that our momentary scare at USC is a reality for many people who have been victims in mass shootings. It also showed us that America’s gun culture is so out of hand and extreme these days, that people see hundreds of people dying each year as a result of gun violence, and still don’t feel compelled to make strides against encouraging gun ownership.
Gun-toting is so glorified in this culture; something you don’t find in other Western societies with lower homicide rates, and it’s quite mystifying. I think most reasonable people know that something has to change, and that America needs to shift the way we think about and glorify guns.
Until then, we’ll constantly lie in wait, afraid to go to large, public places, where at any moment, a crazed gunman can decide to open fire and claim more innocent lives.