I was in third grade when it happened. I didn't really understand it then. Jagged flashes of memory jump out at me. The newspapers the next day. Talking about it in class. A neighborhood girl, scared and crying because they hadn't heard from her Dad. Someone called my mom and told her to try and call my Dad, because there was a shooting on campus.
I feel like it faded from the collective memory a bit as I got older. This was the mid-90s and a parade of horrors dominated the headlines. Columbine. Paducah. Jonesboro. It was a strange time to be in high school and I think it marked our generation in a way. I know technically we're all millennials, but as September the 11th marked the kids in high school just after we left, Columbine shattered our innocence- though, really, our innocence was shattered years before on that November day. It was a strange thing to contemplate. The mass shootings were seemingly everywhere and people would always try and comfort themselves by saying, "Well, it would never happen here." Only you couldn't do that here, because it would always be on the edge of your brain, ready to remind you: "Oh yeah. It did."
When I was in college, every year there would be a wreath outside Van Allen Hall along Iowa Avenue. Most of the students passed it without giving it a second glance. There was no sign. No note. Just a wreath. Maybe some knew what it was for, but most didn't. I feel like it's different now, maybe people remember a little more or maybe it's just imagination. I'd like to think they do though.
The place where I work and what I do gives the day added weight and meaning. Those Dispatchers had to send their officers, unarmed, into the face of danger. I can't imagine doing that.
The officers I work with now, man, there are days... oh there are days, when they drive me completely out of my damn mind. But every day when I get to work, sit down, log in and start my shift I try my best to give them my best. I'm not always successful, but I try. Because I know one day, the phone might ring and I might have to send them into the face of danger. And even though they make me crazy sometimes, I know for a fact that when that call comes, every last one of them wouldn't walk. They would run.
There aren't many left in the Department who were there that day, but there are a few. There probably aren't that many out there in the University who were there that day, but I know there are a few. Tomorrow, they'll remember. Like they do every year.
It's been 25 years. I feel old.