I hear screaming, and then more gunshots. My eyes are glued on my teacher. The sound of a gun firing still fills the auditorium.
I'm pulled back to the present as Dr. Moira gasps, and falls down to her knees. Her hand flies to her side, and I see blood spreading there on her white shirt. My mouth just hangs open. I can't think. Panic is bubbling up inside of me. I hear someone scream close to me, then footsteps as people try to run away. Over this din, I hear the terrible sound of gunshots. People fly past me, trying to get out as fast as they can. When someone almost knocks me over, I realize I need to do something. It suddenly hits me I should be running too, but something inside me says to make sure everyone else gets out. I can't leave them while I run away. A woman grabs my arm as I move toward the stage. She shouts into my ear, half dragging me backward. "Are you insane?! Run!"
She has a tight grip on my arm, her face full of fear and panic, the same emotions running through me. In one hand, she holds beige high heel open-toe shoes. I'm suddenly glad I opted for sneakers today. I run with her, and don't stop until we're outside. When we're out on the lawn, she finally lets go of me. She stops and turns to the school building, tears brimming her eyes. Both of us just stand and stare, mystified at the depravity that would cause someone to do this. What would anyone get from this destruction?
Moments later, someone comes out with Dr. Moira, supporting her as she stumbles along. I rush over to them, and help them drag her to a clear spot in the ground. I crouch next to the woman. I've never seen someone shot before, and have no idea what to do. Some faculty members and graduates kneel on the ground next to Moira. None of them seem to know what to do either.
"I'm a nurse." A woman by me said, revealing a first aid kit she probably pulled off the wall inside the school. I have a feeling that kit is not going to be of much use. It is only stocked with small bandages and some ointments. Still, we part so she can get through. She lays Moira down a little more. Before she does anything else, I look away. I'm a little squeamish, and hate the sight of blood. I hear sirens, and try to find where they are, so I can get someone over here to help. I see them rounding a corner, so close.
"I'll go get a paramedic!" I announce, and run away, toward the trucks. I see the nurse nod, and usher me, as she continues trying to work. I unzip and shrug off my gown so I can run easier. I finally reach a paramedic, and gesture over to the field.
Breathless, I tell them, "Over here! Dr. Moira is bleeding a lot!"
"Where? Show us." Two paramedics follow me as more ambulances and police cars arrive on the scene. I run across the grassy lawn, trying to ignore the faces on the people I pass. Some are covered in fear, many are in pain, but still others bear a face of grief. It pains me to think about those who haven't yet made it out, or who will never get out. I block the tears from coming, and swallow all emotion. The paramedics have a hard time following me. The stretcher is not working with them, tripping in the grass, short though it is. We reach the spot that I left the doctor at, and let the paramedics do their job. They lift the doctor up onto the stretcher, talking to each other quickly. I back up, watching. I stand until they leave.
When they do, I take a deep breath, and move next to the woman with the beige shoes, who's getting some help with her arm. I'm relieved to see it's just a cut, not a bullet wound. We watch as people are put on stretchers, or tended to right on the field here. All we see is destruction.
"What happened?" She asks, her face full of horror. Her lips quiver as she speaks. "How could this happen?" I bite my lip, to keep it from quivering. Tears spring to my eyes as well.
"I don't know." I try to answer. The words form in my mouth, but my voice doesn't work, it comes out as a whisper. I haven't fully grasped what just happened--it hasn't hit me yet.
The severity of it.
Suddenly, another layer of panic wells up in my stomach. Where are my friends?! What happened to my mom?!
I scan the growing crowd standing out on the lawn, and don't see any of them. "No."
It comes out as a whisper.
Just because you cannot see them doesn't mean they didn't make it out. I repeat to myself as I scan the crowd, barely holding myself together.
I need to get somewhere with a better view of the lawn. I go back towards the stairs into the school, weaving through the crowd on the field.
I stand on the top step, pulling myself to my full 5'8".
I scan the crowd again, and—yes! relief surges through me.
I see Austin and Jane. Jane's hands are buried in her eyes, and she's sobbing. Austin's looking around for someone. Probably me. Next to them stand their families, and my mother.
My stomach surges with happiness and relief as I see all of them. They're all safe. I jump off the stairs, and I race toward them.
When I reach the group, I barrel into my mother, wrapping her in a bear hug. Surprised, and weakened by the impact, she stumbles back a bit, before wrapping her arms around me, too. Right then everything hits me. It's like I finally have time to think about it, not just about escaping.
The tears come.
I'm embarrassed to be crying in front of my friends, but I can't stop, so I let my tears fall.
"It's okay." She says, wiping her own eyes with her free hand. I release my mother, and back away, using my wrist to clear the tears out of my eyes.
"Are you okay?" My mom asks, looking hard at me. I nod and turn around. The scene hasn't changed. It's still chaos and confusion. But it's less overwhelming, now that I'm with my friends. Jane throws me into a hug so tight she barely lets me breathe. She sobs, and I hug her back. It must have been harder on her than it was on me. She'd been sitting right up front when it happened, next to the faculty. She could have been shot so easily.
Once we all calm down, and after confirming that everyone in our group is safe, alive, and uninjured, we load up in our cars, still shaken up.
I stare out my window as we drive down the road. I'm exhausted, mentally and physically, but I try to keep my eyes open, just for a few more minutes.
I look at the world around me as the day draws to a close. The sun is slowly setting around the horizon, dropping behind the mountains way in the distance. Everything is bathed in a beautiful golden light.
It's not fitting for the kind of day it has been, but it's reassuring. Comforting.
It tells me that not everything is bad. That even in a storm, the sun will come. I just stare at it, and blink back more tears as I wonder how many people are injured.
I realize something right now, staring at the golden evening. Each life is precious, and we only get one. Determination bubbles inside me. To change my mindset—my entire lifestyle. To do more for others. To "jump into" more things, more activities. I slowly doze off, lulled by the car's hum, and exhausted by the day's events.
My last thought before dropping off to sleep is,
This is our only life, we've got to make it count. If we have no more time than right now, why are we wasting it?
I close my eyes.
Why am I wasting it?