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Trauma

Updated: Jun 8, 2022

Note: this post has nothing to do with fiber, and everything to do with current events


When I was in academia, school shootings ranked high among my greatest fears and were a source of crippling anxiety. They weren’t the sole reason I chose to leave, but they were a definite factor in my decision-making process.


I remember being a grad student in my Masters program when Columbine happened. The reality that a school of all places was no longer a safe haven was shocking, but mass shootings were a novelty, not something we had to train for. I remember being on the staircase in the English department building when my friend and colleague Jack told me about Virginia Tech. This was in my first year as an assistant professor. And in the time since, sites of tragedy—which now include movie theaters, night clubs, supermarkets, synagogues, churches—have become marked by their place names: Majory Stoneman Douglas, Sandyhook, Pulse Nightclub, Squirrel Hill, the Buffalo Walmart, so very many others, and now Uvalde Elementary School.

Mass casualty events have become so commonplace in our world that every place I go, I calculate where the exits are, where the safest places to go into lockdown are, how to quickly and safely evacuate bystanders. I’ve even been rather vocal at former workplaces about the need for safety protocols and training, and I’m disappointed to say that much of what I’ve witnessed and experienced at these former workplaces in terms of their emergency preparedness is subpar at best. I’ve also been pretty vocal and critical of a clear lack of safety protocols (things like classrooms where the doors open out rather than in so barricading isn’t effective or people not understanding the need to lockdown rather than sending their charges out when they have no idea where the shooter or or even how many shooters there are). Prior to opening the store, the only workplace I was at to actually require staff to learn the locations of things like fire extinguisher, fire alarms, first aid stations, emergency exits, and the like was Mercyhurst Prep, and I remain supremely disappointed that at two of the other institutions I worked at, I had to take it upon myself to locate these things, that they weren’t part of normal training.


And, no, we shouldn’t have to live that way, but pretending that these events are merely isolated and “can’t happen here” is foolish and irresponsible. Yes, something needs to be done. A lot of somethings, to be honest, because you can’t rely solely on gun law reform, or mental health availability and evaluation, or training, or safety protocols, etc. These things need to work in tandem and be interconnected. Ignoring the problem and throwing “thoughts and prayers” at it won’t make crime go away or bring back the innocent lives lost or irrevocably altered as a result.


It’s easy to despair over the mass shootings that have happened in just the past week. One was close to us in our neighbor Buffalo. One saw 19 precious children and two teachers mercilessly killed. Our collective trauma can anesthetize us, make us feel numb and helpless, frustrated and stuck.

And it’s okay to sit in that uncomfortable, sad space for awhile. But we can’t stay there. we can’t forget that while we are in shock and mourn these tragedies there are people for whom these events hit much closer to home, for whom these losses aren’t abstract news soundbites. There are humans who are trying to make sense of unimaginable pain and loss, whose grief is immediate and visceral. Not enough was done to prevent their trauma. Not enough was done to ensure the safety of their loved ones. So for them, we need to do better, be better, stop the knee-jerk reactions that only focus on one part of the problem and devise a constellation of solutions that function together so that we don‘t simply wait for the next tragedy to unfold.


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Marcia, you have shared a post worthy of publication. I agree with you and the other comments as well. I work with the public daily, and I have seen such a change in attitude. There is such an air of entitlement over the simplest interaction. I don’t know if all the stresses of the last few years has created this disregard for each other at all age levels. It is refreshing when someone is polite and friendly and takes the time to acknowledge me when I interact with them. I find myself to be exhausted at the end of the day, when I hadn’t been before. (Yes, I am getting older, which could be part of it 🤔). …

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jproper45
jproper45
May 27, 2022

Thank you for this. You have put into words what I have been feeling ever since seeing all of this unfold. I also scan my location to see where I can go to if I need to react to something. It's a world I never thought would exist in my time. It can't be swept under the rug anymore, so many things need to be done.

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agnesm1948
agnesm1948
May 26, 2022

Very well

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Pam Perron
Pam Perron
May 26, 2022

I can't even process this. It's like my brain just doesn't have room for any more of it. It is still working the Buffalo incident through its gears and cannot receive any more input at this time.


I happen to be visiting my parents right now, both of whom are very conservative. The exchanges in the wake of the news are tedious. My mother simply parrots the soundbites fed to her by Fox News. Real discussion is impossible.


On a different note, I attended a training that was offered at Dramashop on active shooter response in a theater setting. Just the acknowledgement that this is a reality and that we need to talk about it felt like a positive step.…

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Marcia Farrell
Marcia Farrell
May 26, 2022
Replying to

Agreed. And we can’t just rest on “we’ll, the government needs to do something.” That’s too passive and people will break laws. Plus, it’s deferring responsibility to be proactive to someone else, which is as empty as “thoughts and prayers.” I’m glad that you had a positive experience with the theater and that the active shooter training was helpful. I’ve heard that active shooter training when done by law enforcement can be incredibly helpful and positive. I often argued in all of my previous work settings that I wanted them to bring in local law enforcement to actually talk to us, train us properly.

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When I was teaching at EU one of the reasons I chose to leave was that students in the PA system were permitted to carry a licensed gun into the classroom. Think about that…if you don’t like what I say then I’m in danger of being shot and in fact nursing faculty at the University of Arizona were gunned down by a student. Faculty I knew because I was editing a chapter in their new textbook. https://news.arizona.edu/story/shooting-leaves-three-faculty-suspect-dead I’m still traumatized.

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Marcia Farrell
Marcia Farrell
May 26, 2022
Replying to

Understandably so. I find one of the more frustrating aspects of schools the fact that they are, in many cases, slow to initiate precautionary protocols with at-risk individuals. I reported a number of borderline students over the years, and too often the response was, “well, we don’t want to assume the worst.” I’m not saying that at risk behavior should result in expulsion, but there needs to be early intervention and not by someone who has a vested interest in keeping things “quiet” for the institution.

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