On July 19, 2012 I made plans with some friends to attend the midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. I was just barely a high school student, and my desire for independence and responsibility led me to conclude that any capable 14-year-old should be allowed to go to a "big kids" movie in the dead of night. My parents immediately said no, my father shaking his head, because, "nothing good happens after midnight." I stomped up to my room and pouted, because the world seemed so unfair.
The next morning I awoke to the news that Aurora, Colorado, a mere 500 miles from my own hometown, was victim to a mass shooting. A man, wearing a protective suit and carrying tear gas, had purchased a ticket to The Dark Knight Rises midnight showing, walked into the theater, and killed 12 innocent film viewers.
The world really was unfair.
On December 14, 2012 a man armed with his mother's weapons walked into an elementary school and murdered 20 children (between the ages of six and seven) and six devoted staff members. Our school had hosted a vigil, we had prayed and we had cried. My friend lit 26 decorative stars in his front lawn.
We told ourselves that it had been a very bad year.
Then it was December 21, 2012. I was just about to complete my first full semester as a high school student, which is a wildly big deal for any 14 or 15 year old. I had Latin homework I had forgotten to work on the night before, a crush on a boy who didn't know I existed, and a police escort lining the hallway to my biology class.
December 21st was supposed to be the day the world ended, and had any signs or symptoms been skipped over it could've been true for me or any number of my peers.
On that day we had be alerted to a potential gun threat in the school, and swift action by both law enforcement and school administration ensured that no harm would come to us students. We were very lucky.
But, "this is how things go for us, nowadays."
I was too young to understand the magnitude of what had just happened. I was too young to understand the complexities of "gun control" and "the second amendment." I, and everyone else I knew, blamed 2012, said that copycats were to blame and if we just thought about how sad it was then maybe all the violence would stop.
Yet, since then I have watched violent criminals murder innocent victims worshipping, students studying for their exams and civilians taking a relaxing night out on the town. I have witnessed my peers in my classes jump in their seats when someone slams a door a bit too loud in the hallway.
I have cried with my LGBTQ+ friends while we watched the news create a profile of the Pulse Bar and Nightclub shooting. I remember the news anchors repeating over and over, "this is the worst mass shooting in modern history."
I will never forget when that phrase was proven false.
Now, I'm a sophomore in college. No longer 14 years old and no longer naive enough to believe that mass incidences of violence are due to a "bad year."
I was leaving my morning class on October 1, 2017 when I got a phone call from my Mom. She, and the rest of my family, still reside in Park City, Utah, so she mentioned her concern over the "incident in Vegas," to which I remarked, "what incident in Vegas?"
I rushed to scroll through my Twitter feed and news apps, hoping to learn as much from them as I could. Early on all that was apparent was that an armed attack had taken place at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival. With Salt Lake City being fairly close to Las Vegas a lot of my friends would frequently head south for concerts or big events. I was so concerned, afraid, and angry that I skipped my last class and planted myself in front of my television, focusing on every word coming from the news anchor's mouth.
My roommate and one of my best friends, Erin, is a Las Vegas local. She sat with me, and we watched in shock as the death and injured toll began to rise. She pointed out familiar landmarks, and gasped a little with every gruesome interview. She said, "I have friends who work on the strip or who constantly hang out on the strip. Every mass shooting is horrifying, especially because there so much pain and fear mixed in with anger. But when it’s your hometown it hits you in a very special way, because people you know are affected..." Her father is a doctor in Las Vegas, and he witnessed some of the pain that came with this act of violence too.
It once again rocked our country.
This became the largest mass shooting in modern American history, a mere year and a half after the massacre at the Pulse Nightclub.
My generation has inherited this immense problem, with no immediately available solution. We know we need gun control, but balancing civilian rights with civilian safety is an issue that continually stalls progress in this realm. We need better access to mental health care as a country, but with the weight of stigma and cost of care any form of change is a slow process at best. We need a society in which diversity is welcome.
Most of all, we need a country where people do not forget.
It has been a little over a month since the tragedy in Las Vegas, and politicians and citizens alike have forgotten the sting of anguish we all felt immediately after the event.
It is November 5, 2017 and I am once again glued to the television as an anchor repeats the phrase "at least 26 people killed after a gunman stormed the First Baptist Church just outside of San Antonio, Texas." This number may and unfortunately will grow if action is not taken.
Will we forget again, or will our society finally have felt the pain of loss enough to begin a conversation? When will we come to the table to talk about regulations, mental health, racism or other afflictions seriously?
The time is now to use this anguish as fuel, and to investigate every possible response to these crimes. Any American life taken by gun violence, especially in a mass shooting targeting the innocent, should be taken personally.
I am part of the "thoughts, prayers and mass shootings" generation, but I promise I will not forget.