The police car flew past me last night with lights flashing and sirens blaring. I had the vantage point of sitting in the cross traffic. I watched cars pull over, many pulled from their distracted thoughts of a baseball game or dinner plans or the events of the day. It was life as usual as they made their way through the last minutes of the commute hour. The police car sped down the street and, as is my habit, I said a quiet prayer for the safety of the officer and all those involved before returning to my own distracted thoughts of routine life. I looked at the clock. I was running late for the meeting with my Guide Dogs for the Blind Puppy Club. I would need to move quickly when I pulled into the parking lot. I shuffled in with another puppy raiser. Pleasantries were exchanged as we caught up on the details of each other’s lives and puppies.
During the meeting, my friend’s phone went off. It was her daughter texting her, telling her of a shooting at the Walmart just on the other side of the freeway from where we sat. The same Walmart I have been inside. The same Walmart where we have socialized the puppies. The same Walmart that shares a parking lot with our “usual post-meeting Starbucks.” The same Walmart that suddenly became the scene of a horrific crime. The same Walmart that police vehicles had sped to just 45 minutes prior.
As she shared the news coming from her daughter’s text messages, each of us began sharing our individual sitings of the police vehicles that sped past our cars as we made our way to the meeting. “There was an active shooter at Walmart.” I watched the faces of those around the table as we each tried to process another act of senseless violence. “People were down.” Though no one said it aloud, I doubt I was the only one pondering the possibility of a terror attack; the Halloween terror attack in New York still fresh and unsettling. “The shooter or shooters were on the run. They are considered armed and dangerous.”
He…She…They…? As they often are during the moments, hours, or even days following random violence, immediate details were sketchy. But, somebody was on the run, not far from where we all sat and in the direct vicinity of where we had planned on going next. I checked my phone for an update as we made plans to change the location of our customary Starbucks run.
As we left the building, I felt the adrenaline coursing through my veins, pushing me to walk a little faster. I decided my pup would wait to relieve until we reached the Starbucks further away. I didn’t need to be standing in a well-lit parking lot just up the road from an active crime scene.
As I crossed the traffic to enter the freeway on-ramp, I looked to my right. Could I see the lights of the emergency vehicles in the Walmart parking lot? I was trying to put pieces together. Those same emergency vehicles sped through traffic not even 2 hours earlier. The first-responders rushing to “serve and protect.” The drivers, like myself, yielding to the lights and sirens. No one expecting the tragedy that had unfolded in the blink of an eye.
No one awoke yesterday thinking they were walking into the day that would change everything, but 3 people didn’t return home from their Walmart trip last night. The day before, 8 people didn’t finish their trip on a pedestrian pathway in New York. Last month, 58 people were killed and another 546 shot while attending a concert. In the blink of an eye, life changed forever.
No one awoke yesterday thinking they were walking into the day that would change everything, but roughly 4,600 people in the United States were diagnosed with cancer. Yesterday, an average of 121 Americans took their lives and countless others did their best to simply make it through their day, hiding the pain of their own struggles behind a false smile. Globally, an estimated 151,600 people died and another 360,000 were born. All in the blink of an eye.
Life changes. It moves forward. But, life is so often dictated by the events that happen in the blink of an eye. Last night, before I let the veil of sleep consume me, I thought about the people whose lives were forever changed during the course of the day: those that won’t return home; those left behind; those scarred by events that they never anticipated when they awoke; those just doing their best to make it through another day with every ounce of their being; and those feeling vulnerable to life’s blinks. Quietly, I prayed for them, for their friends and family, and for our world.
Then, I prayed that I am placed in the path of someone whose life I might help make better because change can come in just the blink of an eye.