Monday, April 23, 2007

The other shooting I witnessed

Brian wrote about it here. He really gets it here:
Mine involved only one professor and a seriously disturbed student, but I can't stop thinking about it right now. So maybe writing this post is therapy for me or something--I can't be certain--but it's something I feel I need to write today.

It was the first day of the fall term, 2000. I was in my second year as an MFA student at the University of Arkansas, and I was about to teach my first class of the semester. I was in my office on the 2nd floor of Kimpel Hall, with my friend Paul, shooting the breeze, when we heard two loud slaps, like a metal shelf hitting a tile floor. A voice called "help" twice, then another slap. A voice down the hall yelled something about a gun.

I recall that moment. It was Pat Slattery, our mentor in teaching composition, who was in the hallway, yelling at students to get out, amidst the stench of burnt gunpowder. We waited at different ends of the hallway until the campus bicycle police showed up.

The sense memories of that morning--it was early--were fresh after I was shot four weeks ago. The gunpowder smelled the same. The shots sounded the same, though the ones aimed at me were a bigger caliber. I do remember every moment of that morning, though I cannot recall the second shot that went into the kitchen wall rather than me.

I have cried a lot in the last month. Many things brought the tears the night I was in the hospital, just as every memory of that warm morning in September 2000 crowded back during the growing news of the Tech shootings last week. And I slumped into my chair and cried again.