THAT Text—will you get it next?

Yesterday I got that text. The one parents all over the United States have been getting. It’s never expected or wanted. It’s not welcome at all. But as of now we’ve done absolutely nothing to stop it.

At 5:51 p.m. my son texted me, “Crap there’s a shooter on campus.”

For the next several hours we texted and called back and forth. I’m lucky. My son was safe in his dorm. His friends were scattered across campus, one in the library that was fired on, another in the student union. Others hunkered down in classrooms and halls. Slowly word got out that the shooter was caught. Buildings were cleared and students were allowed to leave.

At 11:28 p.m. I texted my son again to make sure all was well and he said it was. His roommates were back, having been released from where they’d sheltered. He was going to bed, hungry because the dining hall was closed and he had no food in his room. Hungry but alive and safe. I got to tell him I love him again.

That text is coming for every parent out there. Until our Congress implements sensible gun control measures, we are all in danger of getting it. Until the NRA’s power over us is cast off, every parent sends their kid off to school knowing that it might be their child sending them that text next.

The shooting at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte barely caused a blip on the radar of most politicians and news organizations. By the numbers, the shooting wasn’t that bad, right? Only two people died. Only four people were injured. Only two families had to be notified that their students wouldn’t come home. Only four had to wait in anguish for word that their loved ones were out of surgery.

Can we really judge it by the numbers, though? Because the only number that matters, really, is one. One more school shooting. One more time that lives were ended when common sense gun control could have stopped it. One more time kids texted their parents.

So, if you’re happy with waiting for that text from your kid, go ahead, sit back, relax. This was just one shooting. But it only took one shooting to end the lives of two college students yesterday.

You’ll get that text eventually unless we stop this now.

Two Days to Becoming Magic: A Salute to Just Journalists

assorted wooden alphabets inside the crate

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

It’s just two days to the release of my new romance, Becoming Magic—and I can’t seem to stop thinking about The Capital Gazette‘s dead.

This probably wasn’t considered a mass shooting. A mass shooting, I think, is defined as ten or more victims. There were only five in Annapolis yesterday.

Just five people who didn’t get up and go to work this morning. Because yesterday a man decided it was okay to take a shotgun into their office and shoot them.

This is not a very magical way of thinking.

This is not romantic at all.

This is the life we’re now living.

Somewhere along the timeline of my life it became somehow okay to solve your problems by picking up a gun and shooting the people who you see as causing it. How did we get here?

Some say we need to go back to God.

Some say we’ve lost our common decency. Those people may be right because I can’t help but think that yesterday there was a certain dismissive attitude about the five dead people. I heard the whisper of common conception as plainly as if someone were standing behind me shouting it into my ear.

They were just journalists.

Just journalists. I went to journalism school. I worked on small newspapers in both North Carolina and Virginia. I remember getting up in the morning to drive an hour to the small newspaper I worked at and feeling like I was the luckiest person alive to have gotten a job doing something I loved doing. I loved writing the news in that tiny town. I loved helping with the layout and typesetting and taking photos of people’s kids playing soccer and even—a couple of times—driving all over the back country of North Carolina delivering the papers.

So I was just a journalist, too.

I wasn’t even that great at it, and the hours were terrible, and I got paid next to nothing. But I was proud to have a press pass and to work to uphold the basic principles of journalism.

I imagine those journalists at The Capital Gazette felt the same way.

Just journalism is nothing to sneeze at, fellow citizens. Just journalism is all that holds those in power in check. Just journalism holds a light of truth on the unethical. Just journalism verifies and monitors and maintains independence.

And all too often, just journalism suffers because of it.

I apologize for the length of this stream of consciousness column. I encourage you to read up about the victims of yesterday’s shooting. They were just journalists and I salute them.

Oh yeah, and buy my book, on sale July 1.