I was a small kid who grew up to be a smaller than average adult. I was born with medical issues that made walking difficult and sometimes painful. The challenges are obvious and I have withstood my share of teasing and bullying. In spite of being painfully aware of my size and the issues that would seemingly make me an easy target, I learned situational awareness, and rarely felt threatened. Even when cornered, I was smart enough to talk myself out of tough spots, and could think my way out situations. I learned to pick my battles, when to back away and when not to turn my back. Despite, or perhaps because I grew up a stone’s throw from East St. Louis, Illinois, known for its violence, high crime and poverty, I felt pretty confident in my street smarts and, in turn, my personal safety. It rarely crossed my mind that perhaps I wasn’t as safe as I thought I was. From high school to college, from college on into the real world, which included a move half way across the country, while I saw the inherent dangers of the outside, I rarely included them in my vision of my own world. In essence, I failed to plan for my own safety and eventually for the safety of my children.
It was only when I was traveling from Memphis, alone with my children, a year ago, that I happened to find myself in a situation where I realized that none of us were safe and that, if pressed, my chances of protecting my children were dubious at best. An experience at the hotel we had stayed at en route had left me feeling unsettled and vulnerable. I had slept in bed closest to the door as a first line of defense and was happy to shake the dust off my shoes from there. On the return trip, I stopped for gas and decided to drive up the road a bit for burgers to feed my three hungry little ducklings. I had seen a McDonald’s sign when I exited the highway and so off we went. I ordered and waited. While I waited, I surveyed the area, growing increasingly agitated by the delay of our food. I realized this was not the place I belonged, even in broad daylight, and pulled away; but, not being the best navigator, I turned in the wrong direction. I quickly realized my error, and turned down a street to make a series of lefts that would take me back to the highway. Each street was more dirty and depleted than the last, my stomach sickened and my heart rate elevated. In my haste, I failed to properly monitor my speed, and was pulled over and issued a ticket for speeding, 49 in a 35. The conversation with the female officer was disconcerting as she kept her hand on her firearm the entire time. I realized if she was that afraid of me, then my assessment of the area had to be spot on.
When we finally made it back to the highway, I called my husband and told him what had happened. He wasn’t upset about the speeding, or the ticket, or even the money it would cost to keep the infraction off my license. But I was upset with myself because I had unwittingly taken my children into an area that was dangerous, and because I had done so with so little means of protecting them. Within two weeks of that incident, my oldest child and I found ourselves again in a vulnerable spot. We were in a mall parking lot at closing. Despite being under a light in an open parking lot, in a historically safe area, the place was practically deserted and a criminal’s safe haven. My daughter was in the vehicle with the doors locked while I was putting my scooter in the trunk. Suddenly, a group of four young people came out yelling, screaming and cursing, while moving quickly in our direction. It soon became apparent that the hostility was directed at each other; but my knocking knees and shaking hands were not as easily convinced.
In the days and weeks that followed, I went from firing my first shot – a 380 sig – at the local firing range to obtaining my CCW, and regularly following up the training at the two local ranges near my home. I celebrated the birthday of our nation, by purchasing a concealable 9mm for myself. The Monday before Election Day I bought myself another. As a woman, I went from a position of no firearms knowledge to understanding the differences in calibers, types of ammo and knowledge of the differences between rifles and shotguns. I went from never fired a shot to confidently laying lead to paper. Gun control is hitting where you are aiming! As a mother, I went from a position of fearing for my capability to provide for my children’s safety to feeling much more confident in my ability to protect them if pressed in that direction. For the first time in my life, I understand what the true meaning of empowerment.
I have always cheered the little granny who used her 45 to hold off a would-be attacker. I always smiled on the underdog who overcomes despite odds being against him. I guess you could say I resonate with them. Firearms, and the effective use of them, are great equalizer. It took circumstances beyond my control to awaken the awareness that being half prepared is as insufficient as burying my head in the sand, believing that no evil or malice will ever happen in my corner of the map. In final analysis truth was found in the words, if you fail to plan – you plan to fail. As far as the personal of my children, my family or me, failure is not an option.