Or is it just “thoughts and prayers” today?
Last night, I was doing my usual routine of looking at my different social media hangouts, to see if there was anything interesting going on. I happened upon a livestream, and watched in horror as the events at Walmart on Battlefield, in Chesapeake, Virginia were unfolding. An employee, who had just narrowly escaped being one of the victims of the shooting rampage of his manager, was streaming the real-time reactions of his coworkers as they all tried to make sense of what had just happened. The video has since been picked up by dozens of news sources and shared globally.
I went to sleep with the name “Walmart on Battlefield” on my mind, while millions awoke to hear it for the first time. I’m sure that discovering that Colorado Springs had been overtaken in the news by Chesapeake within just 72 HOURS was horrific enough; watching the immediate aftermath from the quiet and dark safety of my bedroom was terrifying.
Everyone has been in a Walmart. They are mostly all the same, aside from some minor differences in structure depending on when they were built. The areas the public doesn’t see – the employees-only areas – are vastly different from store to store. While ours is pretty easy to navigate, because there’s essentially only one path to travel end-to-end, other stores can be labyrinths of corridors and cramped spaces.
When I was employed by Walmart, I attended management classes at a “teaching Walmart” called a Walmart Academy. That Walmart’s employee areas were both caverous and tiny spaces behind closed doors. Some of those areas are pretty restrictive once you’re in them, and it would be very easy to get caught in one of those areas by an assailant. I imagine that right now, Walmart is having war room meetings in Bentonville, Arkansas, addressing the problematic layouts of employee areas and the ease with which ANYONE with a gun can breach them – employee or not. It happened here, when I was employed there, and the individual went straight for the employees-only area.
Did I just write that? Did I just write about an armed assailant walking into the employees-only area of a Walmart where I was working, with the same ease that I would have used, had I related that “HR took a group of new associates on a tour of the back?”
Why, yes; yes, I did.
The idea of situational awareness and “knowing your exits” is CRUCIAL in every walk of life now. Whether at work, play, shopping, and especially when entering a building or area you’re unfamiliar with, it is essential that you scan for exits and obstructions to safety in the event of an active shooter scenario.
Most companies have utilized videos about “RUN FIGHT HIDE” for mandatory viewing by their staff, and will continue to do so. A larger discussion about FIGHT is being had now, in light of the courageous patron who tackled the assailant at Club Q in Colorado Springs; but that was a unique situation where a combat veteran was able to switch on his military experience and react. Not everyone can or will be able to become GI Joe/Jane and engage in hand-to-hand combat. Not everyone’s fight-or-flight reflex is fight. And for some, fight-or-flight doesn’t happen at all; they simply freeze.
I don’t have any answers for how to stop these tragedies from occuring. “Having a bigger conversation” is the ad-hoc phrase, right? We need to “have a bigger conversation,” just like we did in 1999, after Columbine, or
In DC, in 2002
in Meridian, in 2003
in Columbus, in 2004
in Red Lake, in 2005
In Lancaster County, in 2006
In Blacksburg, in 2007
In Knoxville, in 2008
In Binghamton, in 2009
In Huntsville, in 2010
In Grand Rapids, in 2011
In Aurora, in 2012
In DC, in 2013
In Fort Hood, in 2014
In Charleston, in 2015
In Orlando, in 2016
In Las Vegas, in Alexandria, in 2017
In Parkland, in Pittsburgh, in 2018
In Virginia Beach, in El Paso, in 2019
In Milwaukee, in Rochester, in 2020
In Atlanta, in Boulder, in 2021
In Buffalo, in May of this year
It makes me sick with sadness and rage to read that list. What’s worse is that this list barely scratches the surface of mass shootings that caused the pundits to say, with grave urgency, that “we need to have a bigger conversation” about gun laws, and mental health, and red flag systems.
Yeah, we do. We need to have a bigger conversation: about politicians who take money from gun lobbyists, and about the lack of education in this country about what the framers of the Constitution meant when they wrote the 2nd Amendment, and about how the world was a much different place when they put quill to parchment. We need to have a bigger conversation about caring for each other, as opposed to simply protecting what’s ours.
But for now, we need to have a bigger conversation about situational awareness, and staying safe when we go to work, school, worship, shopping, receive medical care, visit parks and recreational facilities, see a movie or play or musical act, commute or travel on public transit, relax in our homes, and yes, even dash into a convenience store for a lottery ticket or to pay for gas. The fact is, someone in your community is mentally unstable and has free or easy access to a firearm or firearms. Someone has an ax to grind, or revenge on their mind. Someone hates a group of people because they are different or don’t fit into that person’s belief system. Someone has reached the end of their rope. Someone has been sitting in their living room, being indoctrinated by Fox, OAN, InfoWars, Breitbart, or the My Pillow Guy. Someone is a mass murderer in the making RIGHT NOW.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Y’all stay safe while you enjoy your holidays, and may the odds be ever in your favor at all times.