Emily’s current and former jobs are similar, and part of that type of job requires her to visit hospital satellite locations all over Arkansas. She works with local board members and volunteers in advancing the position of the nonprofit organization for which she works – currently, Arkansas Children’s Hospital Foundation. She has been committed to working for a nonprofit since she was in high school, believing the world could be a better place if we would all help each other when we struggle, and that the world is a better place when we experience the universal languages of art and music.
A couple of years ago, when she was on the road for a different hospital foundation, she attended a board meeting one evening at a small-town hospital. That is why we were surprised to see her number pop up on our caller ID at the time the meeting should have been going on.
In a hushed voice, she told us that she and most of the board members were hiding behind a desk in a small interior office with the lights off. I felt a gut punch and asked why, although I thought my mother’s intuition was probably right.
It was. Some angry husband with a gun was wandering through the hospital trying to find his wife. Whether she had been seeing someone else, or hadn’t done the laundry, or had sworn out an adult abuse protection order against him, he was out to get her, and, of course, everyone else in his way was terrified, because carrying a gun, he had been able to enter the hospital, where patients immobilized in their rooms are sitting ducks.
I asked if anyone had called the police, and someone had, but Emily’s instructions, given by way of text messages (thank goodness for cell phones), were to stay hidden – “shelter in place,” I think they call it – until otherwise notified. I told Emily to stop talking but to leave the phone open. Max and I sat and waited, hearing nothing on the other end of the phone, and finally, she got the all clear.
Although we were relieved, we were shaken, because, of course, those kinds of things happen to other people in other places and not to us. Emily seemed to be all right after that incident and went on her merry way.
But last month, we got another call from her, this time around noon, when she was hunkered down out of sight in her office with some other co-workers, lights off, whispering, telling us employees had received a text that an active shooter was on the Arkansas Children’s Hospital campus. The term “active shooter” brings to mind someone who is wandering around dressed in black wearing a mask or hood, and toting assault rifles with enough high-capacity magazines to riddle everyone in an office with bullets in a minute or two – like what happened two weeks ago in El Paso and Dayton, and in too many other places in the recent past.
I know it sounds trite, but I went cold and thought I was going to throw up. Emily got off the phone, and Max and I sat there in silence for 20 minutes until she called back. The incident had been a mistake. Someone – who no longer had a job – had punched the wrong “notify all” button, and instead of reminding all employees of something else, every employee on the entire campus was given the wrong – and devastating – message.
I was relieved, but the fact that I know it COULD have happened was enough to keep me on edge for quite a while.
These are two more of my experiences with guns and two more reasons I believe that Congress should once more ban assault rifles, that high-capacity magazines should be banned or at least limited, and that everyone purchasing a gun, any gun, should have to undergo a background check and a waiting period.
Of course, Congress did nothing after 20 first-graders were mutilated and mowed down by someone using assault weapons at Sandy Hook, so I don’t expect that they will pay much attention to my daughter’s safety. I wish they would.