I dedicate this blog post to the many victims and families of the Connecticut shooting this week.
It was not a pretty story to write, but these stories are never pretty.
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Brooklyn Division of Police Report: Friday, December 14th
Case No. 9184704
Name: Rogers, Jeanette
Cause of Death: _________
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Red. That was the color of my death. No, no peaceful gold nor soothing white for me, but great dark swirls of maroon.
There was nothing strange or unusual about that morning. Sunlight drifted lazily into my room; the alarm went off as it always did. I pulled myself out of bed to fix breakfast and take a shower. Not once in the final hours of my life did I stop to consider that this might be my last day on earth. That I was never going to see this house again, breathe this air. I have often heard talk of a foreboding feeling: a dark wisp of apprehension before fate plays its part. I experienced no such thing. That is why when I raced out to catch the school bus that day and forgot to hug my mother goodbye, I didn’t turn back.
After all, there would be many other countless opportunities to hold her and tell her I love her.
When I got to school, I inched my way past the crowd to get to my locker, heaving my textbooks inside and grabbing what I needed for Language Arts class. I think there was going to be a test that day, or something like that. I’m finding it harder and harder to remember those little details lately. I feel my life as it slips through my fingers, as the memories disappear like smoke. It is so easy to forget.
I had heard all the stories. I had read about school shootings, and I knew they happened. Just not to me. Just not to anyone I knew. I could believe them from a distance, somewhere completely separated from my world. I could hear about one in some far-off place and shake my head and say, “Such a tragedy. I’ll keep them in my prayers tonight.” But for it to have happened- in my town? At my school? Nonsense. No one ever thinks it’s going to be them.
But the truth is – it could be anyone. Death is not as picky as we think.
It happened so quickly.
The noise rocked the halls like thunder. Three in a row. Boom, Boom, Boom. Firecrackers. For a horrifying moment, I thought the ceiling was going to cave in. Then came the screaming, loud and high-pitched. Then another burst of sound. The word formulated in my mind and sank into my bloodstream, chilling my entire body with fear.
My sneakers hit the ground within seconds, squealing as I sprinted down the hallway towards the east side of the school, away from the sound. If I had been thinking clearly I would have bolted immediately for the doors, but I ran like a frightened animal in the only direction I knew to be safe: away. Classroom doors slammed open and I began to hear the shrieking of teachers above the sudden chaos of running children, pulling student after student into their rooms to safety. Boom. Boom. Boom. Oh God. The sounds were getting closer.
I recognized an eleventh grade Pre-Calculus teacher catch my eye. He reached for me immediately. I turned to face him, to flee into his sanctuary, when I saw my best friend Tina staring at me from far down the hallway. She opened her mouth -to scream or call my name, I don’t know- but I heard another gunshot and watched in slow motion as she keeled over and fell to the ground, her blonde ponytail the last thing I saw before she disappeared behind the rush and pandemonium.
The walls flew past me. I didn’t even know I was running towards her until I was at her side, clutching her hand. Tina was like a sister to me. There was a gaping hole in the side of her neck that was gushing blood, and she was choking and panting and staring into my eyes as a pool of it began to form around us. Every inch of me was screaming. The whole scene was screaming. So much red. So much hate. I think back to that moment and all I can remember is the screaming and the warmth of Tina’s blood on my hands.
I looked up and the first thing I saw was the gun. He was waving it everywhere, firing it off at anything that moved. His gaze met mine and it was as if a light had fallen upon me. A good life. A life with potential. Something that can so easily be snatched away. I saw in his eyes an insane, raging desire for my death and a pleading for forgiveness at the same time. It was the saddest thing I have ever experienced.
Tina was squeezing my hand so tightly as she slipped away, holding on to me like I was the anchor that could tie her to life. I wanted nothing more than to gather her up in my arms and share in her misery, to relieve her of half the struggle. To help her.
The shooter raised the weapon like a torch, and I felt the impact in my side as the bullet entered my body. The force sent me falling backwards and my head crashed to the ground next to Tina’s. She was already gone as I lay there dying, her eyes blank and unseeing. I stared into them as my own vision went blurry. I focused on her face as Death carried me away.
I feel it too, Tina, I heard myself crying silently. I feel it too.