Thursday, December 03, 2015

Dear Governor Ducey: Alert. Shots fired. Alert.

Dear Governor Ducey,

Yesterday, I went to drop off some books I wrote at NAU’s president’s office so she could showcase NAU research, perhaps in a bid to stave off more budget cuts: “Alert. Alert. We’re doing work here,” she wants you to see.

On the door was a poster for NAU Alerts. You can sign up to get text-messages alerting you to immediate threats facing the NAU community. When I first started working at NAU, the alerts rang for the swine flu. NAU was all over that, installing Purell stations in the hallway, handing out surgical masks, inviting us to the health center for any symptoms. I signed up for the alerts then. I signed up for the vaccine administered by county health services. My daughter Zoe and I landed early inoculation list since she had asthma and I was pregnant. NAU was on top of it. The state was on top of it. The Swine Flu never got that bad but maybe the Purell helped. Zoe didn’t get pneumonia that year. For that, I am grateful.

But yesterday, as I noted the NAU Alerts and remembered the alert I got only 6 or so weeks ago about the shooting on NAU campus, I walked into the lobby of the administrative offices, where there are no security guards but where there is, for some reason, a flat screen TV hung from a wall. I watched that screen as two SWAT team vehicles pulled around a black Suburban, or, as the newscaster corrected herself, a black Expedition. I watched for a minute but not too long because I’ve seen TV before and big black SUVs and California highway SWAT teams. The news has been on forever and, if you listen to CNN too long, it’s hard to get the CNN anchor’s cadence out of your head. “The suspects who are suspected to be apprehended soon. We suspect we will learn more when the suspects are apprehended.” The word suspect takes so many grammatical positions. It’s hard to sleep at night when the word ‘suspect’ acrobats around in your brain.

My friend Julie lives in the mountains above San Bernardino. I texted her to say “Oh my god, are you all right,” because that’s what you ask even though you know your people are probably safe but you still want to check because you never really know. I got an early morning text before I received the NAU-shooting alert from my sister-in-law asking if I was all right. I was all right. I was in bed. She probably knew I was all right but you never know. If you are worried and you hear about people you love, you want to check it out, just like if you hear there’s a bad flu going around and you want to make sure that your friend didn’t get it, or, if they did, if they saw the doctor.

Julie texted me back, “Hi darling, thank you so much for checking in. We are all okay. I am shaken because the boys stayed home with low fevers today and I was supposed to go in for service stuff and I was going to bring the boys to campus, which is effectively on lock down (it's very close to the facility where the shooting occurred). I paused to see if a neighbor could check on them & then my chair called with instructions to stay home & not bring the boys. She did not mention the situation in her call but the news broke directly afterward. I put a good face on for the kids but I'm worried sick about all those folks stuck on campus. Also the "lock down" is not official in the sense that it's not being called that but there are police at all the entrances & the president has stated that people not leave campus as the freeways are not secured. But as you know it's an open campus that backs up on foothills & the suspects are still loose. Pretty badly shaken have referred so many to the planned parenthood right around the corner and am fielding some panicked calls from folks who feel stuck on campus. Thank you for your good thoughts Nicole. thank you for checking in. It's awful how much the townspeople are venting about middle eastern folks--I don't see confirmed anywhere on the news sights that the shooters have been reported as middle eastern; we have a strong Middle East program in world languages and we have many visibly Muslim students & faculty; I hope they are not the victims of prejudice and violence. Okay. Am pulling self together & going to play board games with the boys. Much love Xo xo xo Julie

See how the worrying expands?  I am worried about her, she is worried about her kids. She is worried about her students. She is worried about her family and Planned Parenthood, after the shooting in Colorado less than a week ago, and she is worried about her Muslim students and Muslim fellow-faculty after the hate-spike post the November 13 attacks in Paris. This slow terror spreads. You can track it like you track the spread of the flu. The idea that as I idle at a stoplight, the person next to me could not like my Obama bumper sticker. The idea that my friend, Kazim, is walking down the street right now has grown eyes in the back of his head. I’m dropping my kids off at school to who knows what terror. I’m going to school every day like I did during the Swine Flu outbreak. I’m checking my phone for alerts but Arizona is not providing inoculations for this terror.  The state is saying, you are on your own. The people, especially in this state, are as locked and loaded as a human-animal-hybrid flu. You have no natural resistance. Purell won’t get you anywhere.

The Swine Flu didn’t end up killing very many people. Not nearly as many people in that year as guns have in this. The swine flu killed 3,433. Guns killed 12,220 according to I don’t know if that includes the 14 people killed in San Bernardino yesterday or the 4 people killed in Savannah Georgia earlier that morning..

I remember how grateful I was to wait in line at the King Street Health Clinic to get my and Zoe’s flu shot. Relieved and grateful knowing that the community, the state, the feds, the WHO had come together to say this is scary. We got this. How possible it was to take this on. How once we recognized a health threat, we sounded the alarm.

Here’s your new and seemingly forever flu: 12,220 in 2015 alone. Alert. Alert.