I think I just broke some kind of record for the longest blog title I’ve ever written. I’m warning you that this blog post might be a little bit of a personal rant because I’m angry. I’m angry, and sad, and disappointed and disgusted. I’ve felt every human emotion there is to feel since last Sunday, when my hometown suffered its second mass shooting in a span of seven months. I’ve watched the continual news coverage of the latest shootings until I’ve had to just turn the TV off. I’ve cried until I’ve had no more tears to cry and then cried some more until I’ve wanted to vomit. I’ve felt too numb to even blog about it until now. This Waffle House shooting bothered me more than any other. Maybe because it hit very close to home. Or maybe because it was our second mass shooting recently. Or maybe it was because my very first job as an eager to work 16-year-old teenager was as a waitress at a Waffle House.
Before I get into all that, I want to tell you this. I’m a Nashville girl at heart. Always have been, always will be. My parents moved to Nashville and made their home here when I was just 11 months old. I’m 58, almost 59 years old now. I’ve lived here my entire life, except for the years I was away at college and vet school (and even then, I didn’t venture too far away and stayed in Tennessee). Nashville, Tennessee is my home and I have nothing but deep down love for it. I get homesick when I venture away from Nashville and I’m more than content to spend my dying days here.
Some of the nicest people I’ve ever met in my life live right here in Nashville, Tennessee. It’s a beautiful state with all its greenery, rolling hills, and mountains. Having lived in Tennessee all my life, I’ve heard all the hillbilly and hick jokes I care to hear and I’ve cringed when we’re referred to as “backwards” or country bumpkins. Back when I was a teenager I worked at Opryland theme park. It’s been gone many years now but was in Nashville. I remember clearly the day a man from New Jersey came up to the deer petting area to the food station I was working at and he leaned against the counter and proceeded to tell me that he was surprised to learn that we actually wore shoes in Tennessee. He was serious and told me that he had heard that no one in Tennessee wore shoes. I couldn’t believe it. He also commented that he was surprised to find such educated people in Tennessee. I found his comments condescending. It was early November and quite chilly outside and I noticed the man had on shorts and sandals. He commented that he had heard that it never got cold in Tennessee, that we always had warm weather, like Florida. No, I told him, it gets very cold here, even snows, and we experience all four seasons here. I told him it sounded like to me that he had been given a lot of misinformation about Tennessee. So we chatted a while and I told him all about the things I love about Tennessee. He thanked me for educating him a little about my state and he went on his way. I never forgot that man and our conversation. And it wasn’t the last time I heard the comment about Tennesseans not ever wearing shoes.
When I married my husband back in 1985, one of our honeymoon destinations was Niagara Falls. Hubby and I were both 26 years old when we married and we were happy and in love (still are). While it was a wonderful honeymoon trip and I have great memories of Niagara Falls, one of the memorable negatives on that trip that left a very sour taste in my mouth and tainted my feelings somewhat about New York, happened at one of the food trucks (I call them food carts) not far from the falls. My brand new husband and I had stopped at one of the trucks on our walk back from the falls to the hotel for a snow cone (that’s what they’re called here in the south– I think they’re also referred to as snowballs or shaved ice).
I walked up to the window, smiled at the young men working in the food truck, looked at the menu, and proceeded to order a lemon lime snow cone. I no sooner got the words “Lemon Lime” out of my mouth, when the men in the cart broke out in laughter and I had no idea why. Then one of them inquired, “OH MY GOD, WHERE ARE YOU FROM?!” I responded politely that I was from Nashville, TN. “Should have known,” one of them replied. And then they started laughing even more hysterically and mocking me with their best imitation of a southern accent. “Lemon lime, lemon lime, lemon lime,” they mocked. I smiled politely, and after getting my snow cone, thanked them and walked away as they still continued to snicker and mock me. What I wish I would have told those men now, is that at least the good, fine people I know in Nashville would have never made fun of a tourist based on how they speak or where they come from. I wanted to tell them that they were some of the rudest people I’d ever met in my 26 years on this earth.
I told my husband on that trip that the snow cone ordering experience had been an eye opener. “I must really sound like some country hick to get that type of response and such explosive laughter at how I said Lemon Lime, ” I said. I knew I had a southern accent but really never thought anything about it. The few times anybody had ever commented on my southern drawl, it was always in a complementary, respectable manner. “Oh, I just love your southern accent,” they’d say. Or something along those lines. “Just how am I supposed to say Lemon Lime?” I asked my husband, trying to pronounce it in a less southern manner. I didn’t figure it out then and I still haven’t. I endured the same kind of action by the hotel clerk behind the desk where we stayed near the falls. First a look like I was an alien from another planet, laughter, and then the question, “WHERE ARE YOU FROM?”
Anyway, all of that to say, I love Nashville and I love Nashvillians. I was devastated upon awakening to the news on Sunday morning that there had been another mass shooting here. It was our second in less than a year. The first one occurred this past September. A man entered the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch (which is a neighborhood in Nashville) on a Sunday morning with two fully loaded pistols. One person was killed and seven others wounded. An AR-15 assault rifle was found in his vehicle. My niece and her husband and two children live less than two miles from where this church stands. This past Sunday, a man entered a crowded Waffle House (again in Antioch and about two miles from where the church shooting was), at around 3:30 am with an AR-15 assault rifle and started shooting. He was nude except for a green jacket which he shed after leaving the Waffle House. Four innocent people were killed and four others wounded. Thankfully, one of the diners who had only walked in two minutes previous to the shooting, James Shaw, Jr., charged the shooter and wrestled the gun away when it either jammed or the shooter was attempting to reload. Though he doesn’t like to be called a hero and says he’s not, had it not been for his actions, many more would have been killed. Sorry James, but in this day and age when the word “hero” gets thrown around so loosely, you are the true definition of a hero in my eyes.
“Its only been 7 months since we had another mass shooting here in Nashville and that is far too frequent,” said Nashville Mayor David Briley. He went on to say that it shouldn’t be happening at all. What’s particularly disturbing to me is that there’s been not one word from our president or the White House on this shooting. Just an eerie silence. Not even one tweet from our tweeter-in-chief. Why?
I’ve seen painful comments about this shooting that have cut me to my core. One comment said something along the lines of (and I’m paraphrasing)– This happened in Nashville, Tennessee, so tell me again why we should care about this? Lord, help us all.
And now what? More squabbling and debates from the gun advocates versus those for more gun control. Blah, blah, blah. I’ve been waiting for our congressmen to say once again that this isn’t the time to have a discussion on gun control. Blah, blah, blah. HOW MANY MORE INNOCENT PEOPLE HAVE TO DIE BEFORE IT’S TIME TO HAVE THAT DISCUSSION? How many times does that question even need to be asked? I sound like a broken record (and I say that with much despondency). Gun advocates will say it’s not the guns that kill people, it’s people who kill people. Obviously, the Waffle House shooter had mental issues. I ask myself every single time this happens– can any person who carries out a mass shooting be totally sane and NOT have mental issues? I don’t think so. I don’t pretend to have answers, but I have many questions. I don’t think that just stricter gun control is going to stop these shootings. Criminals will always find more ways to get guns. But why does it always have to be either/or in our discussions and debates? Why can’t we look at both sides and come up with solutions for both better gun control and more help for people with mental illnesses? Why can’t we have a civilized discussion about why these shootings are increasing without both sides tearing into the other side and finding it more important to win than act like civilized human beings? People are dying! Why does any civilian need to have an assault rifle? There is no reason in my opinion. And why are so many mentally ill people falling through the cracks? Why are so many twenty something year old “kids” getting access to assault rifles whose only purpose is to kill large masses of people very quickly? Something’s drastically wrong with the laws in this country.
I agree with the Nashville mayor when he says, “Enough is enough.” As a parent, one of the scariest times of my life, was when there was a mass shooting on my son’s college campus back in 2010. It was a small campus in Alabama and it’s the last place I would have EVER expected something like that to happen. It was a professor who opened fire on her colleagues at a faculty meeting but we didn’t know those details at first and it was terrifying. When my son came home that night, I embraced him hard and never wanted to let go of him. No parent or student should ever have to go through that. But it’s becoming so common in this country that we don’t even hear about all the shootings that do occur now.
That same son has been in two lock-downs in the past year– one on the army post he works on where he later told me they were kept in the dark and told very little– basically that there was an active shooter on the premises but they didn’t know where or what building. The employees didn’t even get a message about it until way after the fact. My son had to get on his computer to find out information from the internet about what was happening! He said he felt like a sitting duck and waited for the shooter at any minute to burst into the meeting room he was in. A friend of his, and a fellow engineer who worked in an adjacent building, called him and told him people in her office were made to lay on the floor. She said people were crying and calling their family members to tell them they loved them. Just a week or so previously, they had caught a would-be terrorist who had plans to carry out a threat on the base. So tensions were already high. A few weeks later, this same son was involved in another lock-down while in a movie theater at a mall (again for a possible active shooter).
I’m angry that this is the world my sons have had to grow up in.
And nothing’s changing.
How can it change when the President of the United States and Washington won’t even acknowledge this latest mass shooting that took the lives of four innocent people, critically wounded others, and ruined countless other lives? Tennesseans and family members of those whose lives were so violently mowed down deserve better. So. Much. Better. Shame on you President Trump. There’s a whole lot of hurting, grieving people here and I feel that you, the President of the United States, are ignoring us.
Lord, bestow on us your grace and wisdom. Guide us in helping this great country of ours to have the necessary conversations we need to have in a civil and loving manner and to make the necessary changes that need to be made in finding answers to this nation’s crisis. Amen.