Nineteen months ago, shortly before starting my freshman year at CU Boulder, I sat in front of my computer at home in Colorado and penned an opinion piece for The Colorado Sun born out of frustration at the lack of advancement with gun control in the United States. Twenty-three people had just been killed at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas. I wrote about Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
Today, I sit in front of my computer almost 7,000 miles away and pen an article born out of grief, out of guilt, and out of anger. It’s like the concentric circles forming the target of when it would happen in my community marched slowly inwards, until on Monday they found their mark.
I cannot explain the terror at getting the notification that there’s an active shooter in your community, even at a distance. My evening became a waiting game of frantically checking news updates. How many dead? How many injured? Did I know anyone?
I sent messages to friends back home, and when they didn’t respond immediately I was flooded with panic. How many times had we been to that store? How many times had I driven us there for groceries? How many late-night snack runs? How many memories?
The seemingly endless series of safety alerts and now emails I’ve received from CU Boulder are like a red warning light flashing constantly in my vision, reminding me this is not a dream, and I can’t wake up.
Although I am grateful to be safely on the other side of the world while I complete a year studying abroad at the University of Tel Aviv, I feel guilty. Guilty that I am not with my friends and community back home. Guilty that my life here is so far removed from the community’s collective pain. Guilty that I have not done more to try and stop these tragedies.
Perhaps above all, I am angry. Angry that I cannot go to school, or the movies, or a concert, or a mall, or synagogue, or even a supermarket without being scared for my life. Angry at the NRA for suing the city of Boulder over their ban on assault rifles, which was struck down a mere 10 days before this tragedy. Angry that your right to own a weapon designed for war apparently outweighs my right to live.
And, I am angry that a community’s hope was stolen. Some of those in the store were waiting in line to get their vaccines against COVID-19, the light at the end of a long, dark tunnel which has taken so much from the community already. Be it jobs, college experiences, and sadly lives, the dream of a return to normalcy was shattered as easily as the windows on the front of their supermarket.
Colorado is no newcomer to mass shootings, and like before we will rally, we will come together in support of those killed and those who witnessed it. We will share in our collective trauma and try to move towards the future. But there are 10 people who will not move forward with us.
How long until Never Again means Never Again? How much longer must we live in apprehension of where the next shots will be fired?
So once again, I call upon our governments, at both the state and federal level, to make a change — a real change — because until you do, we will continue to die, and our blood is on your hands.
Nina Shelanski, 20, is living in Israel while on a study year abroad from the University of Colorado Boulder, where she is in the Class of 2022. An occasional target and skeet shooter, she has been an outspoken proponent of common-sense gun laws since the mass shooting in Aurora in the summer of 2012.
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