My family's personal experience with a mass shooting.

Friday, December 14, 2012
My aunt and my grandmother were both shot in a mass shooting. This is really hard for me to talk about. My hands are shaking, and I have sick waves coursing through my body. Even thinking about it takes me back to that day. 

It was 1999. My mom and I went to Utah State's campus to find a place for me to live that fall. On the way home, we came out of the canyon and searched for a country radio station to sing along to. On every single station, the same person was talking about a shooting at the Salt Lake City Genealogy Library. 

I remember my  mother's stillness. The kind of stillness that is so heavy it becomes a physical presence. "Your grandma and aunt were at the library today." 

I quickly reassured her that everything would be fine. What are the chances they were in the lobby when that a shooter walked inside? But I pushed down harder on the gas pedal all the same.

We were only 15 minutes from my grandmother's house. The moment we walked through the backdoor and saw my other aunt on the phone, I knew. 

She held her hand palm out toward my mother. "Now, Alice." She was already crying. 

My mother collapsed. I couldn't help her. I couldn't move. I just stood there while she sobbed on the floor. Someone had shoot my white haired grandmother? My aunt? My brain refused to accept it. 

But it was true. My grandmother had been shot in the face, just below her left eye. My aunt in the back, puncturing her lung. Both were in critical condition.

I was the one who went to the junior high and picked up my cousin--my aunt's daughter. 

We were fortunate. I call it a miracle. Both my aunt and grandmother survived. My grandmother's wire rimmed glassed deflected the bullet enough that it entered her face at an angle instead of straight on. That isn't to say it didn't take months of physical therapy for my grandmother to heal. That she didn't suffer debilitating dizziness afterward (it's where Senna's dizziness in WS comes from). My aunt still carries pieces of the bullet in her shoulder. 

It doesn't change the fact that I've never felt quite safe ever since. 

The man who shot two of the matriarchs in my family was mental unstable--as is anyone who would intentionally kill masses of innocent people. 

What really shakes me is that this is a relatively new phenomena. And it's becoming more and more common. It can no longer be called an anomaly. God help us, it will happen again. Our society is degrading, unraveling from the inside out. I'm frightened. Places that are sacred for the innocence that abounds inside are becoming targets for the deranged. 

And I don't know how to stop it. 

I pray for the children and their families involved in the shooting today. Your life will never be the same. I'm sorry for that. 


  1. I am so, so sorry you and your family had to experience something so horrible. I shed plenty of tears today for the darkness in this world, I can't believe what it's coming to. I'm so glad your grandmother and aunt survived. At this rate though, everyone in the U.S. will have such a memory if something isn't done. I'm posting about shootings on my blog soon. Not personal experience but research, opinions, etc. I hope you'll take a look and give your opinion on what I wrote. Again, sorry for what happened to your family. Thank you for sharing your deeply personal experience.

  1. What a terribly sad and shocking experience for you and your family, Amber. I cannot even begin to imagine what it must be like to hear about the horrendous and tragic events of Connecticut recently. My heart is with you and everyone in America who has ever been affected by gun crime.

  1. I am so very sorry, Amber. That was a terrible, terrible event. And the shooter's son said he'd been begging for help, warning that his father was capable of violence. But as he hadn't "done" anything, the system couldn't "do" anything. The system let us down. Well, the son said, in tears, now he's done something . . . he was devastated. I am glad your grandmother and your aunt have recovered but I realize they will never be the same. And neither will their loved ones. We need to make this a safer country. Hugs to you for speaking out.

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