As I write this, I am furiously drinking a lemon water in a panicked attempt to flush cortisol from my bloodstream so I can exit that hyper-alert state that comes upon you when you don’t feel safe or when you feel terrified. (Like when you realize you could have died, for instance.)
But let me calm down and start at the beginning. My week began innocently enough. I drove to the International Festival Gathering of Biblical Storytelling, which just happened to be happening in Dayton, Ohio. I told A Widows Tale for opening worship and it was a beautiful experience to share that story with my fellow storytellers from across the country and the world.
We spent three more days immersed in story and by Friday night we were just about glazed over from the joy of story.
That’s when someone mentioned having dinner in a lovely, vibrant, eclectic area of Dayton with fabulous restaurants. The foodies among us couldn’t resist, so we carpooled to said district and were not disappointed. We found gorgeous Thai food with an atmosphere to match, right down to the oriental letters tattooed on our well-coifed waiter’s wrist. (You can’t have fabulous food without atmosphere, right?) Then as evening fell, we wandered the district and enjoyed the ambience. We passed bars and restaurants filled with laughter and intriguing aromas, listened to street musicians and djembe drummers, visited a hat shop (this was Ohio, not NYC, so it was a hat shop, not a haberdashery), walked around a few drugged and drunk people huddled in front of a tattoo parlor, and hurried past a peep-show palace to get back to our car. (I said the district was eclectic. The peep-show and patrolling police let us know the district was clearly a heady work-in-progress.)
Saturday we had planned to return to try out the Italian place that looked promising but we were just t o o t i r e d so we went to a brew pub around the corner instead.
Which is how I remained one night away from death. Because you see, that district, the work-in-progress with the patrolling police? That’s where a crazy opened fire with an automatic weapon and a hundred rounds of ammunition on Saturday night, August 3. Before the police shot him in the street like a rabid animal he managed to kill 9 people and wound 26.
We heard the sirens, enough sirens to signal the end of the world. We watched the replays again and again on TV. The politicians owned by the gun lobby again assured us that more people die in car crashes each year than in armed massacres by insane people who clearly should never have access to a weapon. I’ve seen it and heard it so many times I’d become numb to it. Let’s be real, there were 3 other massacres just like it that weekend and like many of you, until then, I tuned it all out.
But I’d never been one night away from death before. I walked that street. I stood on that corner. That bullet-ridden body in Dayton could have been me or my storyteller friends or all of us. The shooter didn’t discriminate and was clearly a person whose story had not been kind to him.
Death missed me by that much. And I’m forever changed. I’m forever changed and I’m ready to do what it takes to get our gun laws changed. As one of the Australian storytellers noted, “You’re not safe anymore are you? When it happened to us, we passed a law. Don’t you think it’s time you passed a law?” Yes. I do. And I’m going to get busy and stay busy until we pass that law. Maybe you should too, because guess what? We’re all just one night away from death.