Today (as of when I'm writing this), a shooter opened fire in an anthropology class at UNCC, at around 5:40 p.m., killing two and injuring four people. Three appear to be in critical condition, and one person is getting better.
Today was the last day of class. After walking around campus all day, I decided to lay down in a hammock, and simply enjoy the beauty of the weather we were having. I knew there was a free Waka Flocka concert at 6 p.m. but was hesitant to go. I eventually decided not to.
Around 5:40 p.m., I decided to start heading back to my dorm. Some of my friends were going to the concert, but I decided against it. I instead was going to head to Chick-fil-A with some others. As I was getting closer to my building, I received a message in a group chat asking if we heard about the shooting on campus. Then the same question appeared in another one almost instantly.
The sound of police cars was filling the air, only to be interrupted by a helicopter flying overhead. People looked confused, but I didn't feel unsafe yet. I'd heard that a supposed shooting happened in a building maybe 10 minutes from my residence hall on foot.
Yet I wasn't too alarmed.
We didn't have any information, any grasp of the casualties, apart from rumors and "I heard"'s. Groups of teenagers were still headed to the concert area, dressed for any typical hot summer day. So I sat outside my friend's residence hall, stupidly waiting for the situation to dissipate.
My thoughts were that the shooter probably didn't hit anyone and that he was soon to be caught. As police sirens grew thicker around me and helicopters circled the area, I decided to wait it out in the lobby of my own building. I wasn't too afraid but began to grow uneasy.
The situation only dawned on me when I saw them. Three girls threw open the door, sprinting to their dorm, an expression of pure terror molding their faces.
It all clicked in that instant. An active shooter was on campus, and not too far from me.
The school hadn't even notified us by that point, so they could have been roaming or running in the streets at that very moment. I went to autopilot. I have never felt so much fear in my entire life. In a sense, it felt as if I was running from death itself. Stopping could result in the abrupt end of this story.
The fact that I did not know exactly where the shooter was only added to the horror. Picture tiptoeing across your house, deep in the night, chills running along your back for fear of the imaginary monster crawling in the darkness, when all you want to do is get some food and go back to your room. Now give the monster a gun, and put him on a college campus. You are their prey.
My legs flew me up to my floor before I could make any conscious decisions. It was simple. To either run and hide or face death through the end of a gun barrel.
And then the University went into lockdown.
Some of my friends knew people in the affected classroom, and I later learned that a person I've known since the beginning of the year was also inside it at the time of the shooting. They were, thankfully, safe.
And then I started watching the news. Eyes glued to the screen until they eventually caught him.
And then I saw his face. I saw him, apprehended, being dragged inside a building, smirking, as he seemed to articulate some snarky remark to someone behind him. Turns out that a reporter asked him a question, and the news anchors were trying to find the audio of the clip to play live on air.
I couldn't believe it.
I've always had a deep dislike for American culture's sentimentalization of serial killers' stories. Their names and faces are basically pop culture. Mainstream documentaries are made out of exploring their crimes, in very dramatized fashion.
Which is exactly what they want.
If you think that most school shooters don't want notoriety, then you're wrong, simple as that.
The shooter's face and arrogant remark were shown repeatedly before any information about any of the victims went up. A reporter on that same station expressed his distress, which was similar to mine, he talked about why he didn't want to share the name of someone capable of such a heinous act, for the simple act that it would increase the notoriety of someone who shouldn't get any.
The same reporter said that he reported on the Virginia Tech shooting and that he did not want to give these monsters any light of day, as they had so brutally taken the light away from those whose lives they stole.
By showing a school shooter's face and name, you are giving them what they want: to be known. You are allowing them to more easily share whatever screwed up message they wanted to communicate through their actions. One of the news anchors of the channel I was watching said he was hesitant to share the name of the shooter, but "had to," because "this [was] a huge story."
I was disgusted.
Some countries like France don't even allow the diffusion of the information of caught terrorists to be immediately advertised on mainstream media. There is absolutely no reason for such information to be so widely diffused. It shouldn't be hidden from those who look for it, but it also should not be normal and mainstream public knowledge.
To display a school shooter's face and name, their written motivations, or their arrogant remarks to the general public is to show to whoever wants to walk in the blood-filled footsteps of these monsters that their actions will be met with the promise of fame. It's the fantasy of most criminals parched for the blood of the innocent to be portrayed as a typical movie villain. To create a persona of their own.
Not just school shooters, but any criminal of that nature. Just look at the Batman theater shooting. The man was dressed as the Joker and reveled in that persona. Look at Ted Bundy, who decided to represent himself in court, and did so poorly, his narcissism landing him more jail time than he would have gotten with a lawyer.
The news station shared the name and face of the shooter before those of the victims.
In what world is that acceptable? To do such a thing, when the shooter is clearly apprehended and not a direct threat to the general population anymore? To prioritize such information above those of the people he hurt?
I'd like to offer a different approach. Don't display the face of the monster. Don't show his name.
Not because we're afraid of him, but because we don't want anyone capable of such an atrocity to be promised notoriety. Because we want the punishment for such an act to be disappearance, your identity completely wiped from the cultural subconscious, your existence reduced to nothing worth being shown to the general public.
I am not advocating for ignoring or not studying the reasoning behind such vile acts. But I am also saying that the why, to a certain point, is irrelevant. Not because we shouldn't address it (I think it should be studied) but because the "why"s don't excuse the "how"s, the "how" here is maximizing the murdering of innocent people.
I hope that anyone who feels that way and acts on it or even mocks the gravity of their actions never enters mainstream history. Their acts should not be forgotten, but their identities need to vanish, only to be remembered by those who truly study the subject and not a giant audience that becomes fascinated with the character behind them.
And I hope that the identities of the victims, both those wounded and those who had their lives so suddenly and chillingly taken from them will be the ones to stay within the hearts of many.
It's the only identities that need to be remembered in such tragedies.
Thank you, and care for those you love.