I answered the phone yesterday afternoon and heard the distraught voice of a friend of mine from Omaha. She kept repeating, over and over, as if her impromptu mantra would change history and peel back time: “This doesn’t happen here. This happens there. Where you are. Not here. Not here. Not here.”
Even though I live in Jersey City, I knew my friend was talking about Robbie Hawkins — 19-years-old, 5-foot-7 and 128 pounds — who, after getting fired from his $800.00USD a month job at McDonald’s on suspicion of stealing $17 from the till, took to out his rage on the world by picking up a AK-47 semiautomatic rifle and shooting, Sniper-style, eight people dead and injuring five more at the Westroads Mall before finishing his death spree by turning the gun on himself and fulfilling his wish to give meaning to his life in death by setting the record for the most killings during a single day in Omaha.
I understood my friend’s concern and I wasn’t insulted she felt that sort of murder belonged in New Jersey and not Nebraska. She moved to the Midwest from Chicago looking to get away from high crime rates and killings in the urban core. She thought she was safe. She was wrong.
While Omaha is a tough town full of pockets of minority poverty and despair, my friend had been able to craft a quiet, safe, life there for her children and the general Midwestern assumption is big-time murder sprees belong as the currency of the extreme East and West Coast city centers.
It was certainly a shock to see Midwesterners, in the blossom of their afternoon, running from a department store with their hands raised. As a native Nebraskan, that’s an image you never saw growing up and one you never hoped to see in the future.
The Midwest is changing. Where once the prairies were considered “fly over” territory that the real movers and shakers would only visit as they “flew over” us in airplanes on their way to something better — we must now begin to realize no city or hamlet or village is safe in the modern era where guns are aplenty and arguments are made with bullets instead of reason and morality is of-the-instant instead of being sustained in the being. Where are we headed as a nation when a gun is viewed as an inalienable right, and if you disagree with that notion, your life is threatened with buckshot?
How do we protect ourselves from the bullets fired from that perceived right to bear arms? Are all gun owners naturally angry and rage-filled and scared? Do we all need to carry guns and wear Kevlar clothing as the cost of current living?
Are we naive in thinking there are still safe havens in America where one can reasonably raise a family and live a quiet life without the daily threat of urban violence seeping into the everyday mindset?