Twitter LinkedIn Korn Ferry
Twitter LinkedIn Korn Ferry
Twitter LinkedIn Korn Ferry
  • October 8, 2022

How Being in a Mass Shooting Changed Me

by Andrés T. Tapia

I don’t need to, nor want to, paint once again a vivid picture of what happened on that 4th of July in Highland Park. We all know the facts and many of us still can’t shake off what we saw and felt.

But the scars and trauma are still there. We still mourn those who were killed, worry for all those physically injured and still recovering. And then there are the thousands of us riddled with invisible yet indelible psychic trauma.  

Even as downtown Highland Park has regained much of its daytime vibrancy and Ravinia Festival is back to attracting music loving crowds at night, we now carry with us an unfamiliar weight that forces us to determine how we are going to deal with it all. 

While each person has their own story, here’s mine. 

I am clearly changed. But I refuse to be defined by it. Instead I am defining what the change will be. 

I am clearly changed. But I refuse to be defined by it. Instead I am defining what the change will be. 

But first I must, in a continual stream of consciousness, process the pain, the horror that emerges when one comes so close to one’s own death and that of those closest to you and witnesses the dying of seven fellow human beings who had their lives taken, who had been there for the same reason I was, blameless and underserving of what ended up happening to them; I must allow myself to feel what it’s like to see one’s own community traumatized, shaken, weeping; I must brace myself to keep from being triggered when hearing a lifeguard’s whistle, an ambulance’s siren, a helicopter’s rotating blades; then, every morning when I see my wife Lori – alive – I hold her ever so tight; then, every day when I see my town resuming “normalcy” even as we remain haunted by the paradoxes of sadness and resoluteness; loss and rebuilding; grief and celebration; uncertainty and defiance; then, every evening feeling the balm of a full day of, all around, seeing compassion and caring. 

My response to this jumble of conflicting feelings? “F*** it.” 

Behind this feeling, there is indeed anger toward the US’s reckless gun laws that allow weapons of war in the hands of teens and twenty somethings with mental illness, deadly grievances, or both. 

But my “F*** It” goes way beyond being against something. It’s also about being more free. 

It’s about choosing to live in the present as if there is no tomorrow. To live with more urgency. To live more fiercely. To love more devotedly To give more generously. To live without fear of what others will think.

It’s to live with what Dr. King called the fierce urgency of now.

That is what had been his response to his own statement that “we are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today…, [because] there is such a thing as being too late.” 

We are now at a time where we must see things as they truly are. 

Mass shootings are an epidemic. Innocent people of color keep being killed. Our children are burdened with mental distress. The planet is losing millions of species and millions of people due to climate change. Nature in turn is convulsing with fury through mass fires, superstorms, massive droughts, and epic deluges. 

We are living through intensely dysfunctional and violent situations caused by the pandemic, by the hatred coursing through political rallies, and by the damage we are inflicting to our planet. All these trends have taken their toll. We know this because at least 25% of the US adults in 2022 is suffering mental health distress–that’s 1 in 4 people.

The question then confronting us is what are we going to do to transform the world?

For the longest time, wise women and men have told us to be patient, that things take time, that there’s a process, that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Good advice . . . in another era. 

Instead, “tomorrow is today.” We cannot just wait around, take our time figuring it out. We must figure solutions out much, much faster. Without urgency, without inclusiveness, we won’t be able to save our children, save our families, save our cities, save our societies, save our nations.

With the fierce urgency of now, we have the opportunity to lead with greater purpose, love with deeper empathy, and redesign with heightened imagination. 

“Dream no small dreams, for they have no power to move hearts,” the German poet, philosopher, and scientist Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe declared.

We know what our dreams are. Safe communities, thriving families, a healthy planet, justice for all. 

And, while what we face is daunting, we actually can figure out what to do. 

But will we do it? It’s up to us to provide the will and courage to now say, “Yes.”


Leave a Comment

Like this post? Subscribe for more.

Send us your email address and we'll notify you when new posts are published.