On Nov. 3, at approximately 1:20 p.m., I was crossing the intersection of Maynard Road and State Street with two of my students when a black sedan sped up Maynard, nearly hitting the group of us before coming to a screeching halt. Midway across the street, we hesitated - the car was moving quickly - a man had climbed through the sunroof with his head and torso outside of the vehicle, holding what appeared at first to be a small machine gun.
It took only a few seconds to ascertain up close that the man was holding a plastic machine gun, a toy, painted in Army colors and sized smaller than an automatic rifle we might picture in combat. But we were a foot away from the car in question. Passing students seemed to know the driver and his friends, laughing and videotaping as the car swerved onto State Street and up the roundabout in front of May Hall, all the while this man hanging out the sunroof holding a machine gun as if he intended to open fire on the campus.
Whether intentional or not, this apparently jocular behavior is interpreted as a threat to our students, our faculty, our administration, our community, and our livelihoods. Class had just let out - groups of students ventured to grab lunch or head to an afternoon class. The weather, unseasonably warm lately, was 65 degrees Fahrenheit with a cloudless sky - a time when most students would venture outdoors.
Imagine, for a moment, as I did when I first saw the sedan careening up Maynard, that someone brought a gun to campus with the intention to kill.
Guns are the leading cause of death for children and teens in the United States. The U.S. ended 2021 with 693 mass shootings, per The Gun Violence Archive, an independent data collection organization. As of May, 212 mass shootings have occurred and continue to take place. The Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as an incident in which four or more people were shot or killed, excluding the shooter.
Mass shootings can happen anywhere: a concert, a supermarket, in an office park. But they are perhaps more notorious for occurring on school campuses and targeting America’s youth. I never pictured my career involving life-threatening action, but in the split second I saw the speeding sedan and the man with the gun, I thought of whether I would drop to the ground, or if I would run. This dilemma is one many victims of school shootings face - do I try to take cover, hide, drop to the ground and play dead until the cops arrive (if they arrive) or do I try and make a run for it? What do I do to protect my students, if I can do anything at all?
This is an epidemic that our society faces every day and one endemic of a culture of violence, misrepresentation, and bigotry. Gun violence is not funny, and certainly not funny on a college campus. Not only is it distasteful and dishonoring to the thousands of innocent lives lost to gun violence while they were walking to get lunch or attend another class, but it is an outward threat to our campus community and should be considered as such.
Talia Adry, M.F.A
Lecturer, English Department, Framingham State University