Every Sunday was the same for my family. Every Sunday we woke up, went to church and came home. My mother and my younger sister, Emily, made pancakes with bacon that could melt your nose off they smelled so good. While my father and I mowed the lawn, and worked outside like men do. The girls called us in for breakfast, and we ate the deliciousness that they effortlessly made for us. Every Sunday was the same for my family, and every day of our lives was perfect, nothing bad ever happened to us.
When I say never, I mean never. For example, my parents met when they were 18, they went to college, got married, bought their perfect house in a friendly town of 500, obtained their dream jobs, and had me and my sister. We were born at the exact date, and the exact time that the doctors anticipated. We were and always have been healthy kids, we never got sick, never got hurt, and always had friends. We both have perfect clear skin, blonde hair and blue eyes. We were never chubby, or too skinny. Everything just seemed to work out for us. In fact, I’ve never even experienced tragedy, whether that be physically or emotionally.
But one Sunday was different…
The day started like any other Sunday, we woke up and went to church. But when I walked outside to the car, the wind didn’t ruffle my golden hair, the air felt more stiff, the sun didn’t shine as bright, and the bird’s songs didn’t sound as pretty. Something definitely felt different about that morning.
When we got to church my parents were greeted by some neighbors, and my sister and I found some neighbor kids to play with before we had to go inside. We played tag as we always did. I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off while being chased, not watching where I was going. I guess I was so caught up in the game that it didn’t really matter to me. One of the neighbor kids was “it” and almost got me, but I ungracefully got away by flailing my arms. My hand hit something hard, but I was too into the game to notice. A minute later I heard a girl crying. It was Emily. I must have hit her and bruised her clear, pale face. As I ran over to her to apologize she ran away from me and went bawling to my parents. And I cringed. There was only one other time I accidentally hit her. And the consequences, scared me. If my sister was in tears because of me, so was I. But that was a home matter.
Five minutes later we went inside, I dreadfully sat next to my sister who kept whimpering, who sat next to my mother, and my father sat next to her. My grandparents were in front of us, and our neighbors surrounded us. The pastor walked out, and started the service. I tried to pay attention, but I spaced out and focused on the churches unique layout. I looked at the stained glass windows on either side of the church, portraying Jesus, his disciples, lambs, and of course Jesus on the cross and being resurrected. I imagined ninjas crashing through them and landing on the old metal chandeliers. Their lights just bright enough to light up the place on a gloomy day, and for the Christmas Eve night service. Then the ninjas jumped onto the statue of Jesus in front of the church, mocking his holiness and praying. Just then, we heard a noise come from the pews above us on the balcony. The ninjas disappeared, and the service stopped.
Everyone was confused what the loud clicking noises were, since no one was allowed in the balcony anymore after some kids in my Catechism class started one of the pews on fire. Who was up there, and why? I looked up at the Pastor, who stood frozen. His face turned white with fear. His grey hairs seemed to turn whiter as the seconds went by. My mother must have saw it too, because she grabbed my fathers leg, and put her arm around my little sister. I saw my father turn around and look up to where the noises were coming from, and so I did too. Because men aren’t scared of anything. But the people in the back of the church caught my eye before I could look up. They all started to leave, mothers dragged their children up out of their seats, causing them to drop their Sippy cups and church books. Fathers picked those other children up, and pushed their entire family out of those big wooden doors that kept us all in. Just as my father got up and forced us to stand up too, a man yelled. His voice was heavy, scary and memorable. What he said next sent chills down my spine. “This is for you Jesus! These people will suffer just like you had to for them! Your life for theirs, and their lives for yours!”
All of the women screamed, the men gasped, the children cried from all of the ruckus, and the pastor stood still. He spoke softly, and calmly to the man “Take my life, for theirs is in the hands of me. These people may have sinned, but their lives will not be equal to Jesus’. But mine will be, since I am the one who spreads the word of God. Take me, if you must take anyone.” He looked up as he said it. And so naturally. I looked up to where he looked.
I saw the man who said he would take our lives for Jesus’. The look on his face was as heavy as his voice, and it was not kind. I froze. His face was dark, angry, and his eyes, those eyes were black and didn’t seem like human eyes. He smirked, and bent down to grab something. That something was a machine gun. He pointed it at the pastor, and pulled that trigger. My ears became numb from the noise. And all I could hear were screams of my family and everyone around me.
I looked up at the pastor. And he was on the ground. Blood covered his white robe. His eyes, open, and lifeless. I blinked. The world seemed to be in slow motion. People screaming, running, and ducking for cover. The thing was, no one was safe, no matter how much they wanted to be. I glanced at my father who had thrown himself on my mother, and sister, his face filled with fear. That was a side of my father I had never seen before. I didn’t know he could be scared; I didn’t know I was allowed or supposed to be scared or even show emotion. All my life, he had been the perfect father, who didn’t cry, was the “man of the house”, and did not show us his emotions. So I had not known that I could have done so too. After seeing his reaction to what was happening, it finally clicked in my mind of how I was supposed to react. My heart sunk, I froze, and a million thoughts ran through my mind. Why was this happening? Why here? Why us? What made him do this? Who was this man? Did someone call the police? What will happen to the pastor? And so on. Those thoughts did not stop until I was screaming in pain. I gripped my arm, squeezing it as hard as I could, because that’s what you do when you get hurt, right? I looked down only to see blood gushing down my bicep. I blinked. I looked at where my family had stood, but they were all on the floor screaming. I tried to help my sister up, but she screamed even louder as I tried to pull her up. I looked to where my grandparents had gone, but they were on the floor too, and hurt. My Grandma was shaking my Grandpa, who seemed to be as lifeless as the Pastor.
The gun shots kept firing. Shooting my neighbors, and everyone around me. The gun shots seemed to be getting louder, and louder, until my head grew fuzzy, and finally nothing…
I remember screaming, blood, the pastor’s lifeless body, and that man’s face. Nothing else. When I opened my eyes, I had to flinch because of the bright room I was in. It smelled like old people, and I heard beeping, which must have been my own heart beat. I’m glad I’m still alive. Finally, the lights adjusted to my eyes and a young nurse walked in the room, smiled, and asked, “How are you feeling?” I responded with a wince because I tried to move my arm that had been shot. “Where is my family?” I asked. She responded with a sorrowful face, “I’m afraid I have some bad news, the only one who did not die was your Grandmother. She’s in the other room. I’m deeply sorry…”
I blinked. The room began to spin, and questions started to run through my mind once again. Why them? Why not me? How had I survived? Did they catch that man? Were my neighbors okay? My eyes started to tear up, and when they started to fall, it did not stop for at least two hours. My heart started to feel like a weight that I had to carry around. My brain no longer felt sensations to love, or happiness. And my life, or what was left of my life, faded, like the memories I had of my family.
Two weeks that I laid in that bed felt like an eternity. The nurses had to force feed me, and the white walls around me, became as white as you would believe heaven would look. See the thing was, I didn’t believe in God anymore. If God were real, why would he have let that man murder innocent people? Maybe not all of them were innocent, but I knew my family was. God was non-existent in my life, just like my faith, and my famiy…
Everything around me no longer had color. Nothing was perfect anymore. In fact, I was no longer perfect. My grades slipped in school, my hair became long and messy, and I did not smile, not even at my Grandmother. She felt my pain, and did not smile either. My life was no longer. Yes, I was alive. But without my parents and sister, there was no meaning. Everyone became bad guys to us, and no one was safe, ever. I no longer knew my purpose or wanted one. The only thing I do knew was, that every Sunday from that day forward would never be the same.
Now as the years went by, I became this old, cranky man, kind of like Ebenezer Scrooge. But the only different between us? No “ghosts” came to change my mind, in fact no one did. My Grandmother died ten years after the shooting, and then it was just me. I had no one, because I kept to myself after that. I had no hobbies, and my life consisted of hating on god. I asked everyday why would he have done this to me.