This is going to get dark, and a little/a lot sad.
Two years ago, on August 8th, I went to a lovely dinner at Millennium in San Francisco with Gabrielle from Vegans on the Move/PPKer. Unfortunately, that same day is also the one I think about whenever there is a public shooting, because it was the day I experienced being surrounded by gunfire, and watched a women get hit. She later died. I never mentioned it in my Millennium review, because I didn’t want such a lovely meal to be associated with something so terrible. Prairie Vegan was also never as personal a blog as this one has turned out to be, it just didn’t belong, and I wasn’t ready to even mention it..
Regardless, I still remember every moment of that day in slow motion. Being on the corner of Mason Street and Geary Street and seeing her body on the ground, people running up the street shooting randomly and aimlessly. Chaos. People running, screaming, confused, and scared.
I remember dropping to the ground, and hiding behind the newspaper boxes right on the street corner, before it seemed to collectively dawn on the three of us cowering behind them, that those plastic/thin metal boxes were probably not going to make a difference when it mattered. Even though we were comforted by hiding. Some of us slithered into the Jack and the Box while the manager tried to keep people calm, and called the police. I sent out a tweet (typical), and I remember the very slow walk back to the hostel after the police had started doing crowd control and tried to ask everyone questions.
In that moment I was thankful that I had opted to get a pre-paid cellphone while I was travelling in the USA those two weeks, because I needed to hear a familiar voice so badly in that it’s nearly unbelievable. I called my mom, and just started babbling about nothing, having the good sense to start with “I’m okay, but…”
In August, I think about Mechthild Schröer, the German tourist from Minden, North Rhine-Westphalia. The woman that died, celebrating her 50th birthday in San Francisco. I think about her family. I think about how it was such a random act of senseless violence, and I think about how entirely unintentional her death was. She wasn’t even the target, and it seemed as though with the frightened frenetic shooting of the man I saw running away, the shooters didn’t really know what they were doing.
But that’s not unusual. There are lots of unintended victims of intentional violence. There are the families of the victims that are left behind, the injured, the bystanders, the businesses, and the community as a whole.
I think in a strange way the person I think about the most is Mechthild Schröer’s husband. I can’t think about it without thinking about how I would feel if anything ever happened to JC, and it is the absolutely one of the worst feelings I can imagine. My heart aches for her family, because while that day has passed, the loss of their wife and mother has not.
There has been a lot of violence in Toronto lately, and it’s been making me think about that same frightening moment in San Francisco. I’ve been listening to San Francisco Musician, Pocket Full of Rye’s song inspired by the events – This is the Place We Thought Was Safe on and off for the last two weeks, trying to think of what I can do to help more, or do more.
Organizations like Success Beyond Limits are doing more than bashing the youth, or talking about the “foreign gangsters,” like certain government officials are doing. Listening to Chris Penrose (one of the organizers of SBL) speak on Metro Morning (a morning Toronto radio program on the CBC) has been incredibly heartening and inspiring, and has made me want to be involved in more organizations like that in my community.