Run. Hide. Fight.
That’s the alert UNC Charlotte sent to its students and faculty in the moments after a student with a gun started firing in Kennedy Hall.
Most everybody knew the drill. In Fretwell Hall, two buildings away, a group of students grabbed computer cords to wrap the hinges of their door so it wouldn’t open. Then they stacked desks against the door just in case.
They knew what to do because they have been trained in what to do, the way most of us who go to a school or work in an office have been trained these past few years. We do active shooter drills the way we used to do tornado drills, because a man with a gun is the tornado of these times: a disaster that comes without warning and kills without mercy.
The latest tornado, according to police, is named Trystan Andrew Terrell. He’s 22. A student who was in the classroom said Terrell said nothing before he started shooting. According to other accounts, a student named Riley Howell was killed as he tackled the shooter. Police Chief Kerr Putney says that Howell’s actions saved lives.
A second student also died: Ellis Parlier, 19, from Midland in Cabarrus County. Four other students were injured. And thousands more – those in that class, those who hid in closets or bathrooms, those close enough to hear the shots – they were hurt, too, in places a doctor might never reach.
As for the rest of us … let’s be honest. What you might feel, more than anything else, is numb.
The shootings never end. They never, ever end. Terrell acquired his gun legally, but legal or illegal, here’s what I know: the thugs of the modern NRA and the cowards in Congress have made it damn near impossible to pass any laws that would make it even a little harder to get a gun, to make this country even a little more safe. Their only solution is more guns. That’s like finding out you’re eaten up with lung cancer, and deciding that what you need is more cigarettes.
UNC Charlotte is now on that long list of names that includes Sandy Hook and Parkland and Columbine. Riley Howell and Ellis Parlier are now on that long list of students who will never see graduation day. We have lost so much human potential because of our national worship of the one tool that has no purpose but to kill.
We run from that reality. We hide from it. It’s long past time to fight.
Tommy Tomlinson’s On My Mind column normally runs every Monday on WFAE and WFAE.org. It represents his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to this column in the comments section below. You can also email Tommy at firstname.lastname@example.org.