My Turn, Ann Bourque: Sting of shooting a long way from mending

Published 7:26 am Sunday, January 2, 2022

By Ann Bourque

I am writing this letter in the aftermath of the Christmas basketball tournament shooting that took place at Catawba College on Dec. 29.

My husband has worked at that tournament for over 20 years, and he has seen a wide variety of strange things take place during that time, but never — ever — did he think that he would witness a shooting take place directly in front of him. But that is exactly what happened Wednesday night.

Earlier in the evening, I decided to go to Catawba to spend some time with him, since it is a long, three-day tournament and I would not get to see him much during that time. I sat with him in the lobby of Goodman gymnasium and watched the various people come and go.

The first thing I noticed was that there were no metal detectors to scan everyone entering the building. I even mentioned this to one of the security officers who was on duty. This was shocking to me, considering the escalating rate of gun violence in our community. It just didn’t make sense to me that at an event that would bring together so many high schools where there has been conflict in one form or another they would not have considered metal detectors a priority. And yet, an hour after I left, I got the phone call that no one wants to receive: “There has been a shooting, two people have been hit, but I am OK.”

After that phone call, I don’t remember much because it all seemed surreal … “there has been a shooting, two people have been hit, but I am OK.” In the hours that passed, I sat alone in our house, waiting for my husband’s headlights to hit the driveway, the only indication that I would receive to know that he was truly safe.

During those long and frightening hours, I was tasked with calling our three adult children who had gone back to their homes after Christmas: “There has been a shooting at Catawba, but your father is OK.” Shock, fear, and disbelief came back to me in the form of phone calls and texts filled with emotion and anger. How could this happen? Why did this happen? This is not supposed to happen!

Sadly, this did happen, and it could have been prevented. Metal detectors could have been put in place to protect all who attended the Christmas tournament, but there were none.

By the grace of God, my husband’s first instincts were to  grab three kids and one adult who were close to him as the shots were fired, and he threw them under the kiosk desk as the shots rang out. He then threw himself on top of them for protection. This is an image that I cannot shake from my mind — as a result of listening to him try to process the horror that unfolded in front of him and hundreds of others last night.

Gun violence is real and it is present. Guns and gun violence have permeated the doors and walls of our schools, and no one is safe anymore. Our community is in pain. Our schools are in pain. Our children are in pain and something needs to be done immediately! No one else needs to die at the hands of an adult or a child due to their easy access to guns. This is an overarching, systemic problem that needs attention now! We, as a community, have much to heal from. We are broken and we need help.

Writing this hurts on so many levels, but I am too upset to not speak up. These are all of our people out there. They are your children, they are my children, they are your husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers and cousins. These are your friends and co-workers. These are your neighbors and colleagues. We are all at risk and no one should have to suffer anymore. We need to cling to this problem and not let go until something substantial has been done to rectify it in our community. My heart breaks for everyone who witnessed the horror of the Catawba shooting as well as for those who were injured in this senseless crime. Sadly, the sting of this event is going to last a very long time, and for some the pain will be inscribed in their memories for a lifetime.

In closing, I leave you with the words of a singer/songwriter friend of mine, Ike Reilly, from his song Trick of the Light: “They say that time will heal most anything, but there are some wounds that won’t ever mend.”

The wounds of Dec. 29 are a long way from mending.

Ann Bourque lives in Salisbury.