contributed by Jennifer in California
On New Year’s Eve, I took my four young children and parents and sister to Old Sacramento to watch the family fireworks show at 9pm. The show was awesome, even though it was really cold!
We headed back to our friends’ house to celebrate the New Year in a warmer place. When we turned on the television to watch the ball drop, we were shocked to see that there had been a shooting at the place we had just left! A fight had broken out in a bar near where we had been watching the fireworks. It escalated, and someone pulled out a gun. One of the bar employees was shot and killed when he tried to intervene. The other man in the fight was also shot and killed. The gunman, a security guard, and a woman standing near the fight were also shot but not fatally.
This was all within 10 minutes of the time that we’d left that spot. If we had stayed 8 minutes longer, my children would have heard the whole thing. They might have seen it. They could have been hit by a stray bullet.
The gunman was caught and arrested by the police. The New Year’s celebration and fireworks show that was planned for Old Sacramento was cancelled. And I was angry.
Angry again. Just a few months ago, we moved into a new home because our family has grown. We chose the area because it was so quiet and there were a lot of families with children. Then a young man moved in three houses down the street and things changed. He threw a party one night that got out of control at about 2am. My three oldest kids were asleep and I was up feeding my infant son. My husband was at work. Suddenly, I hear seven gun shots next door. I was startled and grabbed my phone. I dialed 911 and ran into my daughters’ room. It’s in the front of the house, and I was afraid they might get hit by a stray bullet. As I was talking to the 911 operator, I grabbed one of my daughters and moved her to my room in the back of the house. I set my son down with her and grabbed my other two daughters and moved them too.
As I was talking to the operator, I looked out the window and saw a ton of people running down the street away from the party. I ran back into my room to calm down my kids. They were scared and crying. Then we heard more gun shots. My children screamed in fear. I was terrified, but needed to be calm. I did my best to soothe them and reassure them that police were on their way.
After a few minutes, the police knocked on my door. I let them in and they told me that they had cleared the area. They told me that nobody was shot, but the gunmen were gone by the time they got there. They checked my backyard to make sure it was clear and gave my children stickers. They told me that everything was okay now, but to call back if anything happened again. My children slept in our bed that night… and the next night… and the next night. It took a full week before they felt comfortable sleeping in their own rooms again. They still get scared sometimes.
A few days later, the shooter was arrested. I thought that would be the end of it, but it wasn’t. Two weeks later, it happened again. Same house, same situation. I called the police again. This time, someone had been hit. And a bullet had hit the wall of the house across the street. My friends live there, and the wall that was hit belonged to a child’s bedroom. She was okay, but her parents were furious. I would have been, too.
Since then there have been no more parties, and no more shootings. My children are still struggling with it though. They still talk about the shootings. They still express fear at bedtime and want to sleep next to me.
My reaction to these incidents has been anger. Safe neighborhoods aren’t safe after all. Safe family events are pretty dangerous, as it turns out. I’m so tired of all of this gun violence. I shouldn’t be scared to send my children to school, take them to a movie, the mall, to church or a holiday celebration. They should feel safe in their own home, but they don’t. I should be able to take my kids to public places or tuck them into bed at night and feel safe, but I don’t. I feel paranoid. I feel like I have to keep my children close and be on the lookout for a madman with a gun. I have to be ready to duck and cover at any moment just in case there’s a shooting. Even in my own home, I have to be ready to jump into action to protect my kids.
Every child has at some point been afraid of the boogeyman. A parent should be able to look under the bed or in the closet to reassure their child that there’s no boogeyman, that they are safe. I can’t do that. My children are scared of madmen with guns. And that is very real.
And I am angry that people are so willing to protect the rights of those who want to own a gun, but too scared to stand up and speak for those who can’t speak for themselves. Our children deserve that we speak up for them. I am not willing to just sit back and wait for people to realize that the situation in our country is out of control and needs to be changed. I want to be part of making that change so I can look my children in the eye and say without hesitation, “There’s no more boogeyman.”