Thursday, November 5, 2015

Be Alert

This post is not really about Anna June, so if you're not interested, go ahead and skip to tomorrow.

On Monday, the UAB Community received the following message:

"UAB B-Alert - Crime Alert: A shooting has occurred outside of Spain Wallace. Shelter in place. Report suspicious activity to UAB PD. Updates to follow."

My supervisor did exactly what she was supposed to do, even though the alleged incident took place several blocks away. She called my desk and reminded me that "shelter in place" meant to shut my door and stay in my office and don't let anyone in or out until we got the all clear.

Moments later, we got the all clear:

"UAB B-Alert: All Clear - New information was just received that the shooting occurred off campus in Ensley. It's now safe to resume normal activities." 

First of all, I'm grateful for the system that instantly lets us know when something is going on - via text, email, and phone calls. Secondly, I am so glad that it wasn't actually here, where thousands work, go to school, and receive medical care: more people could have been injured.

I'm pretty sure the confusion came in because the victim was dropped off by "a personal vehicle" a block away from the ER. I am sure someone was calling that in to have him transported from one place from another and "a shooting victim outside of Spain Wallace" made it to the alert system, because it was not a place he should have been.

People I "know" on Twitter were making fun of the situation, saying "I go to the University of Ensley" and other wisecracks. In truth, it was a pretty big mistake, as Ensley is still part of Birmingham but is not adjacent to the campus. It's miles away. 

But then I saw the next tweet that the 22-year-old victim of the Ensley shooting had died at UAB Hospital. 

The jokes weren't funny anymore.

It got me thinking, honestly, about our need to make people "the other" and not identify with them. We were doing it with our jokes - UAB is not Ensley, we were saying. But UAB is Ensley, and every other neighborhood in this town. People from that area are well-represented here. In fact, we are also all the suburbs and even cities from around the world, as people carry their homes with them in their hearts. 

Violence anywhere is a cause for concern. We will never create the world we want for our children when guns are an easy answer. Maybe you were a mature adult at 22, but I was not. This 22-year-old, who was alive Monday morning, was not alive Monday afternoon.

I am sure I will never know the circumstances of the young man who died. But as I was in my locked-down office, I was praying for him. 

Whatever we are doing right now is not enough. Maybe it's changing laws. Maybe it's changing the way we teach kids to solve problems. Maybe it's the way we don't communicate enough how valuable and precious all lives are. I don't know the answer, but I'm sad for this person that I don't even know, who may have been a "lowlife" or a "thug" or a "junkie" or even an "innocent bystander" but was actually a person, and a son.

Sometimes the news hits home, and this was just one of those times.


Annie Gallitz said...

This sounds as if it was a very scary thing to experience. Sad about the young man; such a waste!! It is a very sad commentary on our world , where we have to PLAN for these type of occurrences. I don't know what the answer is either....... didn't we just KNOW that there are some things that you just never do ? You just don't do drugs; you just do not carry a gun.; you just do not steal; you just do not hurt others; you DO just work for everything you want, or you do without! It is a time of great trial , living in these last days........

Laura Gallitz said...

I really like our alert system, until I don't. There was an attempted purse snatching on our campus at 1:30 AM this morning, and we all got the alert to shelter in place. I am glad to know about it, but the chances that an 8-5 employee would be anywhere near the campus before this issue was resolved were somewhere between "slim" and "none." It's not a regular occurrence, thank goodness, and if I were a campus-dwelling student I may have needed to know this, but instead we were up for a while after that text!