The sound of the gunshot was so close with the whizzing noise past my head, it was hard to distinguish the two. A 9mm round traveling at about 900 feet per second blurred my perception. I looked to my right and saw the hole in the wall and then to my left and saw the exit hole out the front door of the police department. I was frozen in my tracks as I noticed the holes were about 6 foot from the ground, the same height as my head…the round had missed me by less than 6 inches.
Shift change briefing had occurred in the room next to where I was standing. Most of the officers had left the building to start patrol, but two remained. One was a grizzled veteran, a field training officer…the other man was a young rookie, 2 weeks out of the academy. I stood in silence and heard nothing from the adjoining room. I was half in shock, but half expecting to hear screams of pain, or a body drop…I heard neither. The two men were stunned as well…not wanting to exit the room and find the path of the one round fired. It was as pregnant a pause as I have ever experienced…then I was hit with a jolt of anger.
I turned the corner and hit the briefing room. I saw the two men standing as still as two statues…they looked incredulously in my direction. What the hell, I asked?? That almost hit my frigging head!! Some color returned to the rookie’s face as he profusely apologized to me. They had both been aware that I was standing in the front foyer of the department and had been sure that the round had hit me. Needless to say they were massively relieved that I now stood before them spouting a profanity laced diatribe like they had never heard before!
The training officer had asked the rookie to unload his pistol. They were training on tactical maneuvers to disarm a suspect. The rookie had removed the pistol’s clip, but had neglected to clear the round that was racked in and ready to go. The training officer had neglected to double-check the weapon before they began the exercise. It was very nearly a deadly training mistake. It was very close to being the last day on earth for me.
Both officers were spared termination, but received days off without pay and additional safety training. I didn’t want them fired…but the department would have been justified in letting them both go. Officer safety is your number one duty on the job…they had failed miserably on that particular day. The rookie in question worked the streets for several years before his life ended in a very tragic way. He was despondent over a lost love and fired that very same gun…one round into his head, killing himself.
One round can alter multiple lives and do it rather quickly. I tell this story today because I am grieving over a teenager that I did not know. Last week a 17-year-old honor student and member of his school’s orchestra drove home for lunch with his sister. They walked into their own home here in Fort Worth and interrupted a burglary. The sister ran out the back door as she heard just one round fired. Her brother was shot in the head and died the next day. A life senselessly snuffed out for 3 lap top computers….probably yielding a hundred bucks on the street or at a pawn shop. Life is cheap.
The young man’s funeral was today…he is no more….because of one round. This is not a blog about gun control. I am not against guns, I have a loaded one in my house ready to go as I write this. This is a blog about the time it takes for a small piece of metal traveling at 900 feet per second to enter a person’s body and end their life. That is quicker than you can snap your fingers. Think about how fragile an entity you are as you try to wrap yourself around that speed.
Ever look at a house fly that is bugging the crap out of you…just look at its carefree little life. He is oblivious to the fact that you are standing there with a rolled up newspaper in your hand….ready to snuff him out. That is exactly how precarious our life is too…that is the way I see it. We go about our daily lives not noticing the forces at work around us. We wouldn’t notice the rolled up newspaper either and I guess that is for the best.
Go out and live your life today for those that can’t…like that young broken-hearted rookie….or that outstanding young man who just wanted to have lunch with his sister. Accept the fragility of life and relish in it. You have one round here on earth…no one has ever proven any differently. One round to make your mark and experience the ups and downs of a life. That teenage boy will never get to marry his true love, father children, travel, or play the cello ever again. He did though have a great effect on his fellow students and friends. He was an Eagle Scout and was well respected by all who met him. He was loved by his family and his fellow church members. He did community service and was planning a religious mission.
The rookie and the teenager shared the first name of Eric. I honor their lives today, both left us much too soon. Whether measured in a micro-second or in 17 years, one round can make a difference.