It was 2.30 am a few days after Valentine´s Day and I was up nursing my four-month old daughter. As usual, all was quiet and we were the only ones up. I was pondering the topic for this column when things turned scary. After seeing flashlight beams in our hallway and a loud pounding on the door, it turned out to be the police who had inspected our pick-up truck parked less than five yards from our living room window. It had been shot nine times; the neighbor´s BMW 10 times. It was another neighbor with PTSD gone amok. We were all rattled and grateful that nobody got hurt. The following day was filled with my husband and me talking to neighbors and news reporters, as well as insurance reps, auto body repair personnel and car rental people. I kept replaying that strong sense of being vulnerable with my daughter and ready to do anything to protect her.
It was the first time I experienced so strongly that no-doubt readiness feeling. The strength of that sense surprised and filled me with confidence. Obviously, we don´t know what we’re capable of until we are put on the spot. Now I know.
At daylight we learned that several neighbors had heard the shots and called 911, which gave me a sense of relief. I was not the only one who was rattled and concerned. There is comfort in knowing that others are sharing your life experience. It is like confirmation that this truly is a serious situation.
As we all were outside sharing our own thoughts and experiences, we also got the chance to catch up with a neighbor with whom things had not been so good recently. It was a great outcome from a traumatic event. This tells us that things can have their good sides even if they start out being bad. As a neighborhood we ended up feeling stronger. There is a sense of safety in knowing our neighbors. We can look out for each other. We can process dramatic and traumatic events with each other and hopefully diminish the chances of something like this happening again. We can look out for each other.
From this experience I could not help but think of reports from family members in Austria who spoke of Syrian refugees walking along the highways, their little children in tow. Many countries don´t supply an automatic sense of safety on a daily basis. In this country, especially in a neighborhood like ours, we rarely have to doubt our safety. What a privilege that is!
Not often do we consciously think about that. This shooter in our neighborhood has certainly reminded me of how valuable sheer physical safety is, especially when you’re extra vulnerable with little children.
Fortunately, nobody got hurt. The shooter’s intention was obvious by the fact that he asked his wife to take the gun away from him. It is easier to be just rattled by this experience and to appreciate the safety of our home, our neighborhood and our country. This incidence is a strong reminder of our vulnerability and our safety.
We can’t help but feel sorry for the shooter, a former soldier, having been to Afghanistan. By the looks of it, having returned with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It is real. It is serious. Treatments can help, but often those with PTSD feel alone and sometimes have lack control of their actions.
This makes me think that reality is not as black and white as movies and the news often want us to think. A “good” guy can become the “bad” guy trying to cope with severe mental challenges. Maybe some increased awareness of this veteran`s infliction will help to change this from occurring again.
Author Sabine Starr is a psychologist licensed in Vienna, Austria, currently living and working in Mission Hills. She has written numerous articles for professional psychology journals. For further information, visit www.starrcoaching.com and follow her blog at www.HealthwithTaste.blogspot.com; and a new social media offering is www.facebook.com/StarrCoaching.
Category: Local News