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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

SACCO: Situational Awareness as a Result of Mass Shootings

If you asked my friend Kennedy what she was afraid of, she would give you the standard answers you would expect: spiders, heights and really anything that crawls. 

Kennedy is also afraid of movie theaters. 

A shooting just over a thousand miles away from Kennedy’s home in Indiana has left a mark on her life that she carries with her every day. 

The 2012 shooting in Aurora, Colorado at a showing of The Dark Knight Rises is one that this generation remembers well. It was one of the first instances in which we as a collective nation realized that mass shootings can truly happen anywhere. 

I have only been able to convince Kennedy to go to the movies with me once, back in 2019 for It Chapter Two. Before we even stepped foot into the theater, she chose our seats ahead of time: not too close to the doors, but close enough to where we could make a run for it if we needed to. 

When we got to our seats, I took notice of her uneasy demeanor and shifting eyes. She practically froze every time the doors opened, keeping a careful watch of the steady stream of patrons that would be joining us. 

We have entered an age where we need to be as prepared as possible in the event of a mass shooting. Gone are the days when we had the luxury of slim-to-none chances that this could happen to us, our families or our friends. No longer should we expect to be safe in our shopping malls, our grocery stores, our local parades.

As long as there are guns on our streets and inconsistencies in our gun laws, we will never be completely safe in our communities.

For as long as I can remember, the phrase “if you see something, say something” has been plastered to nearly every airport terminal, bus advertisement and train platform that I have come across. The phrase has instilled in me the idea of situational awareness and to constantly be on the lookout for any sign of danger or threat to my personal safety. 

The steady uptick of mass shootings in my lifetime has done nothing to ease the nervous pit in my stomach in a crowded room or open area. 

The toll that mass shootings have taken on mental health cannot be overstated. A study by Evolv Technology found that 44.9% of Americans report being anxious about gun violence in America and 31.3% list “large gatherings” as the top answer for where they have increased anxiety as a result of gun violence. 

Being a Chicago native, Lollapalooza has always been considered a staple of my summer activities, but after 2017, I started having doubts. 

The Las Vegas music festival shooting is considered the deadliest of its kind, leaving 58 dead and hundreds more injured. The devastation was made even more profound by the news that the shooter had booked two rooms overlooking Grant Park at the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago, two months before the shooting in Las Vegas. 

This past summer was the first time I had attended Lollapalooza since 2018. Kennedy and I were going together, along with a few other mutual friends. 

We sat in my bedroom the night before and formulated a plan for the entire day, including meeting points in case we got separated. With more expected attendees this year than in previous years, I was on edge. On top of worries about COVID-19, I tried to rationalize the idea of something happening; that if a shooter were planning anything, it would be on the last day of the festival. 

From high noon to sunset, I made a routine of scanning the tall buildings that served as the background for the various stages, making note of any open windows or suspicious objects in the distance. 

Living through countless mass shootings has taught me to prepare for and expect the worst in the worst possible way. It has made me more aware of my surroundings, but also exponentially more anxious in public settings.  

No one should ever have to miss out on experiences or opportunities for fear of being caught in the midst of a mass shooting, like nearly one in three adults in the United States. This constant worry and persistent exposure to traumatizing events have also been linked to declines in mental and physical health, according to the American Psychological Association. 

The longer mass shootings continue to go unchecked, the more frequent they will become. Stricter gun laws and a more thorough process as to how such high-powered weapons can be acquired would not only save lives but also protect the mental health of this generation and future generations to come. 

This story was written by Emily Sacco. She can be reached at [email protected].

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