Since Last We Spoke, El Paso and Dayton Edition

I’m up in Newport, RI doing some work for the Navy this week, and it’s frankly a welcome respite from DC right now. In the wake of the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, I have to tell you–I’m tapped out. I’ve donated money to gun control efforts, and I’ve tried to stay offline as much as I can. I just don’t have the bandwidth to digest all the media right now, and if you don’t either, that’s okay. To all the FHO readers in both of those cities, and we have many, please know my thoughts are with you as so many of you were undoubtedly working in area hospitals this weekend. My prayers that you and your loved ones are safe and that maybe–maybe–this is the thing that moves this country to finally take action on guns. Because in this climate of white supremacy and toxic masculinity, this is not a problem that is just going to fix itself.

I’ve got nothing else to offer for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with regular posts. Take care of yourselves, people.


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2 replies on “Since Last We Spoke, El Paso and Dayton Edition”

Sometimes you just need a good rant – these opinions are entirely my own and do not represent this website or my place of employment. This is going to be long…sorry, not sorry.

I had got to the place where I did not follow the media coverage on mass shootings anymore because to tell you the truth they have become the status quo of living in America. The ongoing media and legislators responses over the years: “Oh, it’s horrible! We need to do something about mental health in this country! Outlawing guns/certain types of guns is not going to keep criminals from getting them and using them! Guns don’t kill people – people kill people! If someone wants to kill another person they will find a way! Cars kill people and no one wants to outlaw cars!” And my personal favorite: “Thoughts and Prayers!” But ultimately what always happens is we collectively throw our hands in the air and declare there is no solution and then we do absolutely nothing while the media moves on to the next affront to our rights and/or the most recent idiotic tweet from the orange demagogue.

It’s not that I no longer cared that mass shootings continue to happen but I have had to ration my emotional investment in the daily news over the past 2.5 years or so to maintain my sanity – news which on any given day amounts to a veritable shit show. I think most of us have come to understand over the last several years that we can be absolutely anywhere and be shot and killed; it’s always there in the back of our minds, at least it’s always in the back of mine.

On Saturday, August 3rd it became a reality in my town. I have lived in El Paso for the last 17 years and it is my home. Even with knowing that an active shooter situation can happen anywhere it was still a shock to us all when it did. I was at work when the traumas started rolling in back to back and while I no longer work in the ED I knew something terrible was happening somewhere in the city by the volume of patients being brought in – I was thinking maybe a bus crash or major accident of some kind. Before I could even walk out to the ED to find out what was going on a friend sent me a tweet from the El Paso Police Department stating there was an active shooter, the scene was still active and to avoid the area.


Knowing that we are getting multiple level 1 traumas and knowing the area of town and that there’s a mall, a multiplex cinema, restaurants, SAM’s and a Wal-Mart there all situated along I-10 on a Saturday morning and your mind starts to race with questions about how many people are wounded, how many are dead, how many are going to come through our doors and are any of the people that I care about going to be in those numbers? I immediately start calling and texting people to make sure they’re safe and to warn them to stay away from that part of town. I post on social media asking people to check in so we know they’re safe and I keep checking to see if there’s any more or new information. I call my parents who live in the Midwest to tell them we’re okay so when they turn on the news they will know I’m alive and I text my daughter and sister (also in the Midwest) to tell them we’re okay.

It was a day filled with fear, sadness, anger, anticipation and finally with relief once they had the shooter in custody and determined he acted alone. Throughout the day I vacillate between wanting to cry and wanting to scream because it’s happening again and I believe it’s going to be the same song and dance once the dust settles. And I get next to nothing done that day at work and then I can’t sleep that night; every time I start to drift off I startle awake and I don’t know why because I still can’t put what I’m feeling into words or get a handle on it. I wasn’t there and no one I know personally was injured or killed but it still feels like loss and the grief I feel is real and yet I feel guilt for feeling these things because I am alive and okay.

Then we begin to hear more details – he came from across the state and drove 11 hours to get here…so this was not a spur of the moment thing. He had 11 hours to think about what he was going to do, who he was going to target and why he was going to do it. He wrote a manifesto and posted it to 8chan filled with hateful rhetoric about a “Hispanic invasion at the border” and how he aimed to “kill as many Hispanics as possible”. He then proclaimed that his opinions predate Trump and deemed any suggestion to the contrary as “fake news”. His actions were deliberate and I don’t believe his proclamation for one damn second because the hateful, racist language the shooter used echoes the hateful, racist language routinely spewed directly from Trump’s mouth. This is the same mouth that labeled Mexicans as “rapists and murderers” and the same mouth that did not protest and actually laughed when it was suggested at a Florida rally that immigrants should be shot, the same mouth that consistently fans the flames of racism and defends racist white nationalists as “very fine people”. I could go on and on but I won’t waste my time because it’s become far too evident that none of us can make anyone see or believe what they do not wish to see or believe. But make no mistake that those very same people who say nothing in the face of all of this are absolutely complicit in the violence that ultimately follows.

I’ve marched and sent emails and called legislators and donated money when I can and voted and supported candidates that I believe in but to tell you the truth there are times that I feel like it’s all for nothing. Our legislators continue to stuff their pockets with the blood money provided to them by the NRA and the gun lobbyists instead of serving their constituency and working for the greater good and most telling of all – it took exactly one phone call from the NRA to Trump after El Paso and Dayton for him to back down on universal background checks. To be clear – I am a gun owner and I understand that one piece of legislation will not stop this problem but we have to start somewhere. This problem is multifaceted and it did not develop in a vacuum nor did it happen overnight and it’s going to take a full-fledged effort that addresses the entire problem from many different angles before we will begin to solve it.

The El Paso shooter was sick in his mind and his heart full of hate and rage but I would bet he is not mentally ill with an actual diagnosable illness. Anyone who has worked as a health care provider should understand that this is not about mental illness. As nurses we should understand the value of evidence based practice that is supported by research; our government should be pouring money into solving this uniquely American problem. Sound bites blaming this or that gets us nowhere, meanwhile more and more people are being shot and killed just going about their lives in the “greatest country in the world”.

I bought tickets yesterday for a new theater opening in El Paso next week. I pondered awhile and tried to reason out which screen and show time may be the least likely a target for a shooter – as if I would have any idea as to the thought process of a person who wants to kill as many people as possible based on race or just to kill as many people as possible indiscriminately. This is our collective reality now and as I finally finish this rant after plucking away at it in fits and starts over the last four weeks trying to decide whether I will actually post it…yet another active shooter in Odessa and our lesson in insanity continues while we throw our hands into the air and do absolutely nothing to stop it.

I’m sorry Hope. I thought we might hear from you here. Won’t bother to try and silver-lining this thing, since there is none. Glad you and your people are ok.

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