For the two days I knew Lisa, she got little peace. At night, she awakened screaming. In the daytime, she couldn't stop crying.
Lisa had good reason to cry. Her seventeen-year-old brother shot her in the leg while on an LSD trip.
She was only eight.
All I could do was tell her that she was safe when she woke up screaming and share my radio with her in the daytime so we could have a little music.
I was twelve. I didn't really know what to do but listen--maybe that was the best thing. Lisa's family wasn't with her--I'm not sure why. I know her brother was in jail and Lisa was scared she couldn't go back home.
I can still hear her voice--clogged with tears and mucus, foggy with painkillers and sedatives--terrified and grief-stricken. I can't tell you what she looked like--I was in the hospital with a detached retina so one eye was bandaged and I wasn't supposed to use the other.
I thought I was in heaven when the nurses came to take me out for a wheelchair ride. They got me into the dayroom and then I heard Lisa's screams--and the clatter of something metallic in a pan.
When they finally let me back into my room, I found out from Lisa that the docs dug a fragment of the bullet out of her leg. We both hoped they got it all. She didn't want to go through that again.
They moved her somewhere else after that--I'm not sure where or why....I never saw her again and I didn't realize at the time that our parting was going to be final.
I'd like to say that I thought of Lisa often and sent her as much prayer and good vibes as I could--the truth was, I was going through one of the worst periods in my own life. My eye surgery wasn't successful--to this day, I can't remember big chunks of those following months. It's a blur of adjustment to no depth perception and the fear that what can happen to one eye could easily happen to the other.
But every instance I read of kids getting shot, I think of Lisa. And, I've read too many instances since Columbine. Thirty-one in schools, if my count is right.
Many people would call Lisa one of the lucky ones. After all, she survived. Hopefully, she and her family got the help they needed to get past the shooting. But, tragedy is like death--you don't get over it and proceed through the steps of grieving and recovery in a neat diagrammatic fashion. You just get past it. Someday in the future, the memories will hit you and they can be even harder than when you first dealt with the situation.
I would shut up--if it was just Lisa. It's not. Three years later, I
met a girl who had to mop up her nine year old sister's blood and
brains after she was killed in a family dispute. I could write more than
a week's worth of blog entries about the selfish, foolish, and
irresponsible behavior of gun owners.
I can also tell you there are many responsible and thoughtful gun owners. I don't have the solution, but I can see the blood on my own hands for not speaking up sooner and asking cool heads on both sides of this question to sit down and work some solution out that will allow people to send their children to school in safety, to go shopping for Christmas presents without fear of getting shot, to go to a movie without having the on-stage violence turn too real.
This Christmas, like every Christmas, I wish for peace on earth. That starts with each one of us searching our hearts and working on a solution that keeps the Lisas of this world safe.
Rebecca McFarland Kyle, December 2012