How many mass shootings did it take for you to start feeling guilty?

Wait, do you not feel guilty yet?

I can tell you which one did it for me: the UCC shooting two months ago. I can’t tell you why it took me so long. I was sad after every event. I am sad, all the time. But when the UCC shooting happened, I was in a literature class at Portland State University, a three hour drive north. Maybe it occurred to me finally that it could really have been me.

For two weeks after the shooting, when I arrived at school I was more paranoid and vigilant than I normally am. I took very deep breaths. I was worried I’d have to hold one in, to get really quiet, at any moment. The fear dissipates, it loses power, but it is never completely inert.

It seems the voices that grow loudest are the people closest to the victims. Grief turns to survivor’s guilt and anger. But shouldn’t we all have survivor’s guilt by now?

Weren’t you in college once? You were 18 or 20 and didn’t really know what you wanted to be yet but you were reading the classics and figuring it out, or you were 33 and returning to college to try to restart your life, you were in class and you never considered that a stranger could come in and kill you.

Did you survive college? Lucky.

Maybe you didn’t go to college. You surely went to kindergarten. Or if not, you have a child who went to kindergarten. Did you hug them goodbye and put them on the school bus in the morning, did you trust they would be safe all day long, did you hug them hello again at the end of their day? Did they return safely to you? Lucky, lucky you.

You could have not gone to college, or kindergarten, or had a kid in kindergarten. But did you ever go to a church? Have you been to a movie?

Did you walk into the dark room trusting the strangers around you, did you sit in the red-carpeted seat, put your soda in the cup holder and hold the hand of your husband/girlfriend/sister/cousin/best friend/first date and think to yourself, “Man, I hope this movie’s worth it, because it may be the last time I hold her hand.”

Did you survive the movie?

Lucky, lucky, lucky you.


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