This letter to the editor ran in an op-ed feature of the San Diego Union-Tribune on Sep 7, 2019
Terrorism used to be something that happened on the news, in movies or video games. As a child, I couldn’t comprehend it. I knew that living in the United States protected me from exposure to it. The “greatest nation in the world” was a safe place.
The gun violence epidemic has not only erased that idea from my mind, but it has also made victims of myself, my family and my friends.
Recently my company held an active shooter training. I was late arriving to the “drill” portion of the training by a few minutes. As I was walking to the meeting room a hulking man in fatigues and body armor charged out the door. He produced a convincing-looking black cap gun and fired it at my chest from close range.
Having missed the instructions for the drill, I fell to the floor and played dead. I assumed that was my role, having been “shot” from four feet away. A drill instructor found me and encouraged me to get up. He told me to keep fighting. “It’s going to take more than one bullet to bring you down,” he said enthusiastically.
A few minutes later, we gathered for a debrief. Unannounced, a plainclothes officer entered the room dressed as an assailant, firing another cap gun. Scenario two was designed to catch everyone off-guard. I spent the rest of the day terrified, waiting for scenario three.
I understand the good intentions of those people who put on the drill and I appreciate their attempt to prepare people for the worst. But it’s downright embarrassing that any school, business or public institution in “the greatest nation in the world” should need such training.
As I walked home that evening, I remembered the day my brother’s junior high school class was held up by a student with a handgun. I thought of a recent Facebook post marking a friend as safe at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in July, and another post remembering a friend from college who was shot and killed the same week in New Mexico. I began to feel a noose tightening around me. That was when I realized that I understood terrorism.
The dramatic increase in gun violence in America has brought about a sea change in everyday life. Places that used to feel safe now feel uncertain. The fear we all experience is being exploited to sell more guns. Our political system is too broken to deal with the thousands of gun deaths and injuries every year. All of which leads to more gun violence.
All the training and equipment in the world won’t help you if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. We’re allowing the likelihood of that to increase every day.
I never thought I would live in a nation affected by terrorism. I do now.
— Chris Bono, Downtown