Fifteen years ago I ran for my life. I was a child, just 15 years old, but I became an adult that day as I experienced the evil that humans could inflict on each other. Thankfully, along with that evil, I also experienced how amazingly kind humans could be.
Half my life ago, I experienced true violence for the first time. I became less trusting of strangers and more cautious about where I was and what was going on around me. I was changed. And yet, I've done so much in the last 15 years. I've done things that some of my classmates didn't get to do because they were gunned down.
I graduated high school and graduated college. I've been supported by my amazing parents. I've loved and been loved. I got married to a wonderful man and gained a family that I love as much as my own. I've become a homeowner twice and had a career as an editor. I started my own bakery business that is growing. I've had dreams, some that have come to pass, and some that haven't. I've made friends and lost others. I've retained my friendship with my best friend who hid for her life 15 years ago, and I value that friendship so much as we totally understand each other. I've lost both of my grandparents and have met my wonderful baby cousin and get to meet another one in the summer. I've been a dog mom, pursued my passions, and I've traveled throughout the world. I've celebrated birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries. I've done so many things that other people I walked the halls with didn't ever have a chance to do. Not everything I've done in the past 15 years has been fun or enjoyable, but I've lived.
I'd like to say that I've thanked God every single day for saving me, but I'm not here to lie. I am extremely thankful, but the memories fade and life gets busy. I can only pray that he knows how thankful I am, even when things are hard and messy. I will never say FML or ask God why is my life so bad because I know how close I came to not being here. If it had happened on April 19th, I wouldn't be here as I ate lunch outside that day. If I had been more dedicated to my newspaper class and assignment, I would have been in the library on April 20th during lunch. If their plan would have worked, I would have been blown up in the cafeteria or shot as I was fleeing the explosion. There are so many things that could have happened to all of us, and I am thankful that so many of us were saved.
The older I get, the more I realize that we were just kids. At 15, you think you're pretty hot stuff and you're practically an adult. But looking back at pictures, we were so young and innocent...until we weren't. We were at the critical age where we were truly influenced by that experience, and it changed my life. I pray that no one has to go through that ever, but unfortunately it has happened time and time again. I have no solutions on how to prevent that, but it seems to me that people need help. If they see shooting innocent people trying to live their daily life as a great idea, they need help.
From this day forward, more of my life will have been affected by the shooting than less of it. I will know violence for more of my life, and that makes me sad. It's also incredible that it was half of my life ago and I can remember it like it was yesterday. What I was wearing, where I was, what I was doing and thinking and seeing.
In the last year, my husband's family came to visit us, and we were talking about how our utility box is on the outside of our house. That makes me nervous, and I said that I occasionally worried that someone could cut our power and then murder us. They looked at me (rightfully so) like I was crazy, and I realized that most people don't think about the bad things that could happen. Maybe this is because of what I went through or maybe I'm just paranoid, but I know that bad things can happen in "safe" places.
So this week especially, I'm going to be thankful that I survived and was able to experience so much in the past 15 years. I'm thankful to my family and my friends, both old and new, who have supported me and called, texted, emailed, or messaged to make sure I'm doing ok on anniversaries or when something similar happens. I'm going to be sad for the children who didn't get to live full lives as well as their families whose time was cut short with their loved ones.
I'm going to be thankful that God saved my life, and I'm going to try to live my life to the fullest in honor of those who couldn't.