If Rico Marley wasn’t caught I would’ve died in a mass shooting last Wednesday.
I saw him out of the corner of my eye, but I didn’t pay much attention. He had on a jacket, but it’s that weird time of year where you can wear a jacket or a tank top and not be too hot or too cold. He went to the right into the supermarket and I went to the left to exit it. I was standing right outside of the entrance, too busy looking for my Uber that according to the app was five minutes away. All of a sudden I felt really woozy and faint. I’d just gotten my first Covid-19 Vaccination and I knew this was probably one of the side effects.
A nice woman who was an employee must’ve seen this lapse and quickly came to me offering assistance. I declined but thanked her. From the manager who helped me find my groceries to the woman at the cash register who packed my groceries into bags for me when she saw I was tired, the Publix Supermarket staff had been nothing but the experience I hope every woman of color receives in a store. I got into the Uber that day thinking that the Publix grocery store was one of the most hospitable places that I’d been to in a long time. The kindness of the employees made me so excited for my future interactions with people after being quarantined for a complete year. That was it.
I got home, took a nap, and woke up to tons of pictures all over my Twitter feed of the Publix Supermarket grocery store I’d just been at. Tons of news reports that a man walked in with an AR-15 and six loaded guns on his person. Before I saw his name pop up on the news I had his face pictured in my mind. I saw the time he was detained and I immediately knew who he was. He was the only person outside that Publix with a jacket on, and other than that minor detail I hadn’t given him another thought before the moment I realized he almost took my life. I was that close to being another name in another mass shooting in America. And days later most of the country would’ve forgotten my name or the GoFundMe my family would’ve set up to pay my burial and debt expenses; because there probably would’ve been another shooting with another list of casualties.
Here we are as the residents of Atlanta; just trying to live our lives in the midst of voter suppression and not be one in four of ATLiens living in poverty. Not more than a week after a shooting spree less than twenty minutes away where a man took the lives of eight people mostly of Asian descent and blamed it on a sex addiction. Not more than a few hours after a similar shooting in Colorado took out even more casualties in the name of …what? A group of politicians in the NRA’s pocket, or some guy that could receive a gun in a few hours yet wait months to get mental health support? I know what could’ve come if that shooter hadn’t been caught because I have known someone who died in a domestic terrorist shooting.
Attending the funeral of a friend who has died in a shooting is something I wouldn’t wish on the devil. I remember my phone blowing up with tweets and texts from friends asking if anyone had seen her because her school was on the news. Then slowly coming to the realization that she was in the school and she was one of the souls that died that day. That cute little pink casket at her funeral made me feel so uncomfortable because she was too young to be in that casket. And the blood-curling screams of her best friend when they rolled that little pink casket away. Those screams that quieted the entire church with how loud they resonated through each heart there. They haunted my sleep for weeks and I’ll remember them for the rest of my life.
That could’ve been me. I could be in a burial plot back home close to my friend with a matching cute casket. I feel like a fool. Here I am, having spent a year of my life in almost complete isolation, losing my mind, missing the holidays with my family, watching loved ones die without being able to be by their side one after the other all in the name of surviving Covid-19 when all the while the biggest threat to my life was a domestic terrorist with an ego trip and an assault rifle. How could I forget? As this world opens back up and we begin to return to a state of normalcy the normal in America is posting ‘Thoughts and Prayers’ every week or so in remembrance of a mass shooting.
“That’s not normal”, I constantly hear from friends and loved ones living abroad. It’s not normal to own AR-15s for anything other than mass killings. It’s not normal to be afraid of the weird guy in a public setting because you know he’s not getting mental help that he needs and you pray you aren’t around the day he finally snaps. It’s not normal to be able to get a assault rifle in less than a day but take weeks in order to be eligible to vote or get an ID.
As crazy as it sounds I’m not mad at the man named Rico Marley who almost took my life. He could’ve been stopped long ago. Stricter gun laws could’ve been in place after Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook or Parkland. But we got shooting drills in schools and buckets of rocks to possibly subdue them. Rico Marley could’ve received mental health support after the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was signed into law. Instead we got so many restrictions in red states that many providers and doctors don’t accept Affordable Care Act patients due to the backend costs and fees. I’m mad at the people who have the power to stop these shootings yet do nothing to profit on the fear and sale of guns.
I honestly don’t have some major resolution or call for change to make sure this doesn’t happen to some other woman that just happens to be standing outside of a supermarket having a good day. Because if some Instacart shopper doesn’t walk into every supermarket at the right time and just so happens to hear that click of a clip going into an assault rifle I know it’s going to happen again. I just wrote this because after a few days I realized that my sheets were still in knots when I woke up due to a restless sleep. I was still twiddling my thumbs to subdue my anxiety every time a friend texted me to make sure I was alright after seeing the story pop up on the news. I’m still sitting here in PTSD knowing that as more and more receive the Covid-19 vaccine the next domestic terrorist shooting is right around the corner.
I survived a possible Covid-19 death just to go back into this. The only thing that seems to help my uneasiness is the thought of hundreds of activists around the world who have been called through personal tragedy or a call to demolish these domestic terrorists and their easy access to assault rifles. I matter to them. All of the nice employees at that Publix Supermarket matter to them. So I take comfort in that. And I’ll be damned if I survived all the deaths and injustices against Black people within the last year just to die at the hands of an assault rifle.