Reflection On Mass Violence: Always Near, Never Far (Enough)

Years ago, an acquaintance of mine was killed in a mass shooting. It wasn’t the first time violence has touched my life, leaving loss and uncertainty in its wake. But all this time later, this particular tragedy is still something I can’t forget for very long, especially as more of these types of events continue to flood the news.

Every time this kind of violence has unfolded, I’ve stared, unmovable, in front of any screen offering news, even when I never knew anyone involved. When the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin shooting happened just an area code away, I started to feel how it’s proximity could terrifyingly encroach on how I feel about my own personal security. Pregnant with my first child, I swayed back and forth, hand on belly, as I stared at the TV. I was wrapped in thoughts of how scared parents and children, both inside and outside the temple, must be. I imagined how their own feelings of safety must be shattering down around them.

All too soon later, I awoke to news that a shooting had taken place at my old salon. I was close enough to my stylist. She was there for me on my wedding day and knew members of my family. She was actually one of the first people to know I was pregnant, though with a child she’d never get a chance to meet. We were facebook friends and texted on occasion… but I had absolutely no idea what she struggled with at home.

And about a month before the shooting, I decided to try a new salon and stylist because they specialized in a technique I was excited about.

Since the Azana Salon & Spa shooting, I’ve experienced my own shock and grief trying to process it. I couldn’t help but feel guilt over leaving Zina. And I couldn’t help feel relief that I had. Since the shooting happened on a day and at a time that I would typically book my appointments, I couldn’t ignore the What If thoughts about being there myself. Could I have been there on that horrifying day, when so many people were hurt and so many others were changed forever?

Though I wasn’t, I still find myself touched, like there’s a mark on my psyche that will never go away. Zina was special to me, even though I understand that it’s in a very peripheral way. I recognize that she didn’t mean to me what she did for the others she shared so much more with. Still, a loss, no matter what the circumstance, can alter the fiber of your being in countless, excruciating ways. A loss like that, marred by extreme violence and unavoidably dissected in the national spotlight, somehow seems like it can feel even worse.

So, I’m someone who’s lost people I’ve known to violence – and I’ll never be the same. But when the negative thoughts and feelings start creeping in, I choose to have faith that my positive actions can defeat them. I remember good times, and I focus on what I can do to make the world a better place. I try to choose empathy and encouragement over stigma and judgement whenever I can find the strength to. I try to treat others with respect and try to teach my child to do the same, because as simplistic as it may be among all of the complexities in issues like these, I have to believe that love for ourselves and all living things makes this world worth being a part of.