Dear Active Shooter

Dear Active Shooter,

Hi. It’s me. You don’t know me. I don’t think you do, anyway. No- you don’t know me. But somehow- some way – here we are.

We are here. You have a loaded war weapon, and I’m here shopping or dancing or praying or well… just living my life- the same way you always have. Right? Cause… America -the home of the free and the brave…

In some ways I never thought we’d be here – like this… and in other ways – I absolutely knew there was no way to avoid it. And so I’m not going to freak out – and try to hide or cover my head – I’m
going to talk to you-

See – I think the question America is asking is, “Why Active Shooter? Why are you doing this?”

White male in your 30’s? Why are you doing this? Is it a mental health issue like they say?

Were you the victim of bullying and emotionally unavailable parents – who were never home and worked all of the time – out of the country? Were you raised by nannies who let you just zone out on violent technology for hours, and you were never really socialized? Did this leave you feeling awkward, and out of place when you actually had to interact with others – especially those your own age- and so mostly you were a loner?

Rage was building inside you and you were only maybe 7 or 8. A little boy- and your best friend wasn’t Johnny down the block or Rex your pet dog-

your best friend was AK101 – a weird, ominous, virtual screen name- out there in cyberspace – who made you feel even more alone.

By the time you 12 – and starting middle school- an incredibly hard time for adolescents- you had written over 100 unread suicide notes that got the attention of no one. And doled out handfuls of your parents antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications just to lose the nerve and flush them down the toilet. Your desire to die was strong because the pain and loneliness you felt isn’t fathomable to someone like me, right? You were weird, ugly- and scary.

But something else happened at the beginning of the school year when you were 12.

Something that changed everything forever.

On September 11, 2001 America suffered the worst terrorist attack our country has ever endured and nearly 3000 Americans were killed. It played out on National television and we all watched.

You watched those jetliners fully loaded with innocent passengers crash violently into the towers and burst into flames over and over again-

Active Shooter- didn’t you?

And you were only 12 years old?


What did you think then?

Was it on that day – that your desire to kill became stronger than your desire to die because at such an impressionable age you saw what a lasting impact an atrocity such as the 9/11 attacks could have on the world? Did those catastrophic attacks on America influence the value you placed on where you live and the people you live amongst? Did hate speak louder than love on that day and was there something comfortable in the pain- something so familiar – it felt like something you could relate to?

Because that day was so weird, ugly and scary…

I mean – you were only 12, and we’d let you down long before that day. I’m certain that day did not better your chances of overcoming all you were already dealing with.

Dear Active Shooter,

It’s been 18 years since those attacks and you’ve been living your life. I won’t try to paint a picture of what your high school years looked like.

We are a very dysfunctional family, and all of the bad stuff kept happening obviously. Nothing was dealt with. No one talks about it- and we are all expected to just get over it.


Clearly, things haven’t gone too well for any of us-

‘Cause here we are.

And two weeks ago 27 other Americans were in the same position at a Walmart in El Paso.

Oh- and the week before that 20 others at the Garlic Festival in California.

Oh and just one week ago 20 others- driving in Odessa.

Dear Active Shooter,

Maybe no one has wanted to right the wrongs of the past or really take the time to see you and hear you and acknowledge that things have been severely fucked up for a very long time.

I agree. It’s all been swept under the rug and I’m

Mad too.

But don’t be mad at me… or her… or him and them. Or so angry that you can’t even see it’s your own sister your shooting and killing.

We didn’t do this- and we also want things to change.

I don’t know how to make it better right away – but I’m willing to hear you- and work for something different.

I know having empathy and trying to understand each other and how this all got so deeply tangled in hate and fury is a better plan than ending it all for just a few who never saw it coming. An innocent few at that- I mean the latest victim was a 17 month

old baby. What’s that accomplishing?

Active Shooter-

Let’s deactivate.

Put the loaded war weapon down and give me your hand.

My name is Elizabeth.

What’s yours?

Photo ©Julie Anderson All Rights Reserved

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