The sun shone in my eyes after noon last Saturday, and as any person in my generation does, I checked my texts.
I clicked into the article; it had only been started 23 minutes prior. There was a shooting in Palm Springs, and two officers had been killed, one injured. The Desert Regional Medical Center was on lock down. That’s all the information they had at the moment.
We hear about these incidents nationwide, seemingly more often than normal these days. We read articles; we watch videos; we become concerned, angry, frustrated, and confused. We do not reach a resolution, and as a result, we become desensitized.
The problem with this shooting was that it hit close to home — literally. Knowing little information on the suspect’s status and why the Medical Center was on lock down, my palms began to sweat.
I was just a few miles away.
I had a bunch of friends grow up and reside in Palm Springs, and some of these friends and parents of friends were in Palm Springs law enforcement.
My mom’s store was less than 1,000 feet from the Medical Center, and I wasn’t sure where she was at the moment.
What if the shooter had escaped and started running and went towards her store or the surrounding area, and she had no idea?
With such little information at the moment, I began to feel so helplessly frustrated.
As the situation unfolded, Facebook informed me that two officers had been killed: Officer Jose Gilbert Vega, a 35 year veteran at the police department who was not even scheduled to come in that day; and Officer Lesley Zerebny, who had been with the department for a little over a year and had just come back to work
after giving birth four months ago.
My eyes began to water as I become overwhelmed with anger towards the shooting, with sorrow for the families, with unanswered questions about the situation.
Why is it okay for a human to kill another human?
Why is it okay for a human to feel warranted to take a few casualties however and whenever he or she pleased?
Why is it okay for a human to put other humans in danger, to make them feel unsafe, to make a whole community want to lock their doors, hide in a closet, and pray that their lives aren’t next?
No matter how many incidents we hear about regarding police brutality or racial profiling or corruption in law enforcement, the rational solution is not to compete with the number of casualties on either side.
A human is a person, a living and breathing person, a “someone.”
In contrast, an object is just a… thing.
When I read about these incidents, I feel like I’m not reading about humans hurting other humans; instead, I’m reading about “humans” acting on what they think are objects. According to these “humans”,
these objects don’t have feelings.
These objects don’t have college acceptance letters coming in the mail in two weeks.
These objects don’t have newborn babies waiting for them to come home.
As the days have passed, I’ve grown to learn that these fallen officers were outstanding citizens. My timeline on Facebook has been flooded with police badge profile pictures. The city of Palm Springs commemorated Officer Vega and Officer Zerebny with a funeral open to the city.
This tragedy is slowly beginning to pass, as we are watching it to turn into history. Time heals all, sure, but the amount sorrow and pain and unanswered questions still exist.
I think one of the most jarring parts is the fact that the shooter graduated two years before me from the same high school (so I’ve been told). At some point, we might have been in the same environment, learned the same equation, heard the same announcement about wearing red on Friday for the football game.
It’s almost haunting.
And yet when trying to make sense of this tragedy, I find myself wondering:
Was this an act of a human on other humans?
Or was this an act of a “human” on what he felt were just objects,
objects whose lives he could take because he felt justified in doing so?
To Officer Vega and Officer Zerebny, please know that you created an emotional movement. You’ve encouraged many to access levels of empathy they didn’t know existed. You’ve laced fingers together in the community to hold hands and stand together.