After living in Japan for over a year it has been a relief to not have my guard up when we go out. We can go out to a festival and not worry about something happening. Or go to the mall and not worry about gangs getting in to it. If we had kids, I wouldn’t have to worry about them walking to school or being at school. I wish the United States could be more like this.
After watching the news for the past few days I have seen various news stories reminding that I will need to have my guard back up when I go home. While somethings like the rioting and officers being shot haven’t happened in my home town yet, I have seen two stories that did hit home. Thankfully they were false alarms. The first was Crabtree Valley Mall being evacuated because of a possible shooting. Crabtree Valley Mall is a mall I go to often and was actually planning on going to when I go home. The second was multiple shootings reported in JFK airport that caused the terminals to shut down. I will be flying in and out of the airport in November. Again thankfully both of those events turned out to be false alarms but still terrifying to see the videos from both of those stories.
Growing up I thought my home area was safe. I never felt truly threatened until probably my junior/ senior years in high school. That year was insane because that was when school shootings seemed to become the norm in the news. It was about a year after Columbine happened. I remember that my best friend, Zazu, and I would eat lunch on the hill going up to the D building (all of the language classes and computer classes were held in this building). I remember that we talked one time that if a shooting ever happened at our school, that it would probably happen during lunch and that our location was the safest. Since it was on the hill we could see most of campus and see if something was happening. There was brick wall behind us leading to the building, so we had something sturdy to hide behind if we needed to. Plus the parking lot was just a little bit behind the D building so we could run to my car if need be. It’s scary that as 17/18 year olds that we had to plan escape routes.
The fall of our senior year there was a shooting at our school. It was during the homecoming game. Randi, Selvi and I (we were mat maids for three years in high school) were sitting with some of our wrestling guys in the bleachers behind one of the end zones. We weren’t really paying attention to the game. I remember looking up trying to pay attention to it and noticed all the football players running to the far side of the field. It wasn’t until they continued running off the field that I realized something was wrong. One of the guys was grabbing us and pulling us backwards off the bleachers. I just remember him yelling “Run!” and shoving us. Us girls ran to the line of port-a-potties behind us. We hid there for a moment trying to figure out what was going on. Some other people showed up and said that someone was shooting people. At that point we decided we needed to keep moving. We climbed the fence behind the port-a-potties and raced through the woods to get to the school parking lot to my car. It was one of the times I was grateful my parents and lent me their car and cell phone for the night out. We got in the car and worked our way through the traffic to drive Randi’s house. Her house was closest to the school. Her parents’ were home and let us come in to watch the news. Thankful no one was actually shot but a young girl did get grazed on her leg by either a bullet or debris. From what I understand it was gang related which wasn’t the norm for Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill didn’t have a gang issue. That happened in Durham the next town over.
That wasn’t the only crazy thing to happen that school year. Also during that year we had multiple bomb threats, a fire, a lockdown and a riot at our school. It was insane how quickly the innocence of childhood can be pulled away when you see stuff like that. Sitting in my car with friends while waiting to be able to drive away wondering if the bomb threat is real or seeing large crowds of students fighting police. It was a few months after I graduated that 9/11 happened. I guess you can say I almost pinpoint when I realized that the world isn’t as safe and welcoming as I thought it was. I love my childhood and I love Japan because it reminds me of the safety I felt in my childhood. Is there a chance that the states can return to that safe haven I thought it was?