Forward: This post has been sitting as a draft in my Blogspot folder for a very long time. Ever so often, usually as the anniversary approaches, I think about publishing it. More and more frequently, a mass killing occur and even before I hear any details, I can make an educated guess about the profile of the killer (alienated white guy, varying only in age) and the demographics of the victims (women or ethnic or religious minorities). Last week it was a synogoue and a grocery store. This week it was a yoga studio. But Montreal, on the eve of my 21st birthday, was the first time that I realized it could have been me and not some abstract person. College students now have not had the luxury of not thinking about school shootings. They were just babies when Columbine happened. Now it is an every day occurrence.
I remember exactly where I was on Dec 6, 1989, when I heard about the mass killing of female engineering students in Montreal. News traveled more slowly then, so I heard about it in the evening while
I was listening to the radio. I was in the Stanford physics department in my dad's office, finishing my grad school applications and procrastinating on studying for finals. I was thinking about my upcoming 21st birthday, which was the next day, and I wanted the symbolism of sending in my MIT application on my birthday. I also wanted to have it out of the way so I could party with my friends. I didn't completely admit it to myself at the time, but MIT was my first choice. I remember typing in the fill in the blanks part of the form before adding my personal statement. I pondered the section asking for a photograph of myself and ultimately taped a picture of a frog in there. Even as an innocent young biddy I didn't want my chances to be influenced one way or another, but it was a atypically gutsy move for me to do for my first choice school. As more and more details came out, I was shocked by the killing and by the fact that the killer targeted female engineering students. Those women were my peers. They had names like mine and they looked like me. At the time, the media made it out to be the work of a mentally unstable person, which, indeed, it was. But it was more than that as well.
My actions that night is etched in my brain with surprising clarity, forever reinforced every year on December 6. I have only vague memories of doing my other grad school applications and finals. I did not really think of it consciously for a few years afterwards. I was busy with grad school and didn't really start spending time on the internet until 1994. As time passed and mass shootings became more common, I realized how indelible these memories were, because it could've been me.
At 29, I was home sick with chickenpox when the Columbine shootings occurred. I did not make the connection then. My memories of that are blurred from fever and acute itching, so it's all a vague blur. Now I am rapidly approaching 50. Each new shooting happens and is supplanted by another one before we can even process it. It's not disreprectful of the dead and grieving to make it political - it's disprectful not to use these events to push for increased gun control.
So on that note, I will just say please go vote on November 6.