The Lucky Ones

July 16, 2015 Chattanooga, TN

I took my daughter to have her senior pictures taken today.

We drove to the most unremarkable of places, a prefab building down a road generically named Perimeter road.

Perimeter road would turn out to be an appropriately military-like address.

My daughter is lovely. They ask her to sit for 20 shots, each slightly different than the other.

Senior picture shoots are boring.

My daughter was patient. 

I’m proud.

She’s lovely in every way, this 17 year-old girl.

She’s a dancer, a student, a feminist, a humanist, a kind and smart woman.

I know she will do well. 

What I don’t know is that for every pose there has been a gunshot, fired less than a ¼ mile away.

A live shooter.

You aren’t surprised are you?

This will happen everywhere.

When we came out to the lobby to wait, with other parents and their sons and daughters, for the next series of photos, the manager of the photo studio came over to our group and told us that there was a live shooter in the area.

He thought we should know.

Although the entire front of the building is glass, he locked the glass front door.

I know how he felt.

He had to do something.

He did the best he could do.

Everybody stared at their phones.

Nobody was surprised.

It is going to happen everywhere. 

Life went on as if everything was normal.

Nobody did anything.

They called my daughter in for the next series of photographs.

While my daughter posed, I went to the back door and found the exit.

Then I looked for a place to escape.

Then I went back to the waiting room and stood where I could see the front door.

I told myself what I always tell myself.

Being scared is no excuse for being slow.

I have thought about this day.

This is going to happen everywhere.

We left and drove to lunch as traffic snarled along every route.

We listened as the news trickled in that placed us so close to the gunshots.

We wondered if we had passed the shooter’s car, or in turn, been passed by him.

I asked her if she knew that I would take care of her.

She said yes and I let that be our truth.

I told her that if ever I told her to go, to leave as quickly as possible, that she should run and not look back.

I told her that she should never hunker down and wait.

She should escape.

I told her that I can take care of myself and that I couldn’t stand the idea of losing her.

She knew exactly what I meant and she changed the subject.

She understood.

This is going to happen everywhere.

We would learn later that while she posed next to a clock, on a steamer trunk, more gunshots were being fired at a location six miles away.

While time stood still on a giant clock, where she was leaning, five people died.

Nobody was trying to shoot us today.

We were the lucky ones.

The senior pictures will be ready in two weeks.

In two weeks nobody will be talking about a guy with a gun in Chattanooga, TN

Because this is going to happen everywhere.