Reflections on gun violence

On April 20, OHSU Students Against Gun Violence organized a rally with a variety of speakers sharing their perspectives on the impacts of gun violence. One speaker was M.D./Ph.D. student Caroline King, M.P.H., who provided this transcript of her remarks.

I open my eyes and I am 16, lying in bed under the slanted roof on my light pink ceiling, praying my alarm clock will give me 10 more minutes of sleep when I hear,

ca-click BOOM ca-click BOOM

I roll over and concede sleep is for naught. I hear the front door open and close and my dad calls up “Caroline are you up?”

and I yell back down the stairs as loud as I can muster “Yes I’m up, I’m coming!”

and he says “The raccoons are eating the trash again!”

and I say “Dad, could you wait an hour before you shoot them, did you even hit anything?”

and he says “No but I bet they aren’t coming back this time”

and I close my eyes and send a telepathic message to the raccoons to maybe please don’t come back this time. Feet on the floor, heading to school.

I’m 22 and it’s the middle of the summer and I’m driving around in my car sweating in Philly, listening to Zimmerman’s attorneys explain why he murdered Trayvon. Governor Rick Scott is explaining Stand Your Ground on news breaks and I’m driving past my turn over and over again waiting for Zimmerman’s fate to be sealed ’cause you can’t murder a kid in a hoodie with Skittles and get away with it.

I’m 24 and crying at church for the nine murdered African-American people in Charleston by a white supremacist. I am wondering who would bring a gun to a church. We are wondering if we should bring guns to church. I look down at my hands that are tingly and shaking and think it shouldn’t have to be this hard to not die at church.

I’m 25 and I wake up in the back of my car with my girlfriend. She’s asleep but I never sleep past sunrise when we camp. I’m turning on my phone and notifications light up to read “Orlando Gunman Attacks Gay Nightclub, Leaving 50 Dead.” I think about being queer and 18 and at college, being pulled by a cute girl in a white t-shirt to my very-first-queer-bar, seeing queer people around me dancing and how I maybe I wasn’t in Catholic school anymore. How three of the victims at Pulse were under 18.

I’m 26 and my friend tells me about when a cop held a gun to her head.

I’m 26 and getting ready to head home on vacation and my brother sends me a video of him shooting his new AR-15 into hay bales.

I’m 26 and at a mall with my dog. Everyone is running away from us and locking their doors so we are running away now too. In the safety of our car I am searching twitter hashtags to find out what we are running from and find out Tucson’s Fire Chief has just murdered his ex-wife, his wife’s new husband and killed himself in a restaurant. I am going to Domestic Violence Law class the next week and talking about cops with guns stopping guys with guns who used to be cops from committing domestic violence or not stopping guys with guns who used to be cops from committing domestic violence.

I’m 27 and have derm lectures on half my screen and Emma González on the other half. I am looking at our generations leader and I am crying because no kid should have to carry us on their shoulders.

It’s Wednesday and I’m leading a group of 9th graders up the tram and they are asking me about medical school and they are impossibly small.

It’s Saturday and we are talking to people who are homeless about what OHSU can do to help support our communities.

Sunday and I wake up to read John Elifritz has been murdered by police in a homeless shelter. All these killings and I have learned that you don’t need to rewatch violence to believe violence. All this time but I watch this video. I cannot shake it. The image of John Elifritz sliding against a wall in crisis seconds before police shoot him is seared into my memory.

Monday and all I can see is the video. I’m up reading the stories of groups responding to people who are homeless who fled the scene. I’m imagining what it feels like to experience trauma and have no safe place to call your own to go.

Tuesday and I am trying to remember when running stopped serving as effective exercise. The only thing that works now is swimming. You have never seen a less efficient swimmer, and thank god, because where this anger, this fear would go if not pouring out of my body is too painful to imagine.

I am die-ing in and standing up; I am writing; I am asking-my-elected-officials-for-change. I am wondering when I will stop waking up to violence. I am wondering when we will decide we want to stop waking up to violence. I am wondering if I will die before I stop waking up to violence.

OHSU Students Against Gun Violence is a group of interprofessional OHSU students committed to using our privilege and power to help elevate the voices of those harmed by gun violence. For more information about how to get involved, email or find us on Twitter (@ohsustuagainsgv) or Facebook (OHSU Students Against Gun Violence).

Related: Read “Congress must fund research to address gun violence,” a viewpoint by M.D./Ph.D. student Elizabeth Swanson.


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