Tuesday, December 18, 2012

1/4 Of An Inch

Don't pull, just squeeze the trigger.  That is how you hit your target.  That little piece of metal, hugged by your index finger, you only need move it a 1/4 of an inch to change the world.

Whenever there is news of a school shooting I cannot help but relive my own experience as the shooter, almost.

The psychiatrist told me that if I had fired the rifle, I would have "snapped", would have been transformed into a totally different mindset, would have gone into an auto pilot sort of mode where I would be mentally detached from myself, no longer fully in charge of my own actions.  I would have been more of a front row witness, than a perpetrator.

Back in the real world, the police would have been called, their first task would have been to bring an end to me.   If I had pulled the trigger just once, I would have pulled it again. I would not have stopped.  And people would have continued to die until I was dead.

In the Spring of 1977 I was in my first year of high school.  I joined the JROTC and had taken up target shooting.  I wasn't very good at it, but I enjoyed the sport.   In a show of support, my father bought me a rifle to practice with.  One morning, while everyone else was still sleeping, I picked up the rifle, put a box of ammunition in my jacket pocket, and headed to school.

At school, I climbed a short wall, a fence, and found myself on the roof of a row of classrooms.  I walked along the roof until I came to the cafeteria, hoisted myself up to that higher level, and laid in the prone position, looking out over the empty courtyard.  It would be a while before people started showing up for the start of the school day. I waited.

Eventually, some students showed up,  a couple small groups, chattering.  I pointed the rifle at a girl, drew a bead on her, my finger wrapping around the trigger, I took a deep breath.

Then I thought to myself, if I shot now, the few people in the courtyard would scatter and I wouldn't get a second shot.  There would be more people if I waited until the first bell rang.  I put the rifle down and rolled over onto my back.   The sky was a dark blue, spotted here and there with clouds catching the first rays of daylight.  It was beautiful.  I asked God to help me.

The moments passed as I waited for the bell to ring.   The bell, located on the wall a couple feet below my position on the roof, didn't ring.   Or, I didn't hear it ring.   In the distance I could hear people on the P.E field.  I sat up and looked around.  The courtyard was empty, classes had already started.  I picked up the rifle, climbed down off the roof, and made my way to the security guard's office.