My name is Carrie.
We’ve never met.
I know this
because I have never met someone
who has been shot with a gun.
Important people on television talk about
statistics and data and events.
I want to know other stuff.
When was your first kiss?
Were you an early riser—out of bed at first light?
Or a night owl, wide awake while the house snoozed around you?
What was your favorite meal?
Did you like baseball?
Where did you go?
Where are you now?
My son asks me this a lot.
He is fifteen.
He is tall.
He is complicated.
A boy with
poor executive functioning.
He is a poem without rhyme,
and a song without rhythm.
For the first time, I am scared.
Can I tell you why?
I don’t know quite how to describe it.
Gunman was diagnosed early on with autism.
Florida shooter was battling autism.
Evidence suggests Las Vegas shooter had autism.
Kept to himself.
My son has autism.
He is lonely.
He keeps to himself.
He has never been invited to a sleepover and he doesn’t go to birthday parties.
He doesn’t have a single friend.
It does not mean he is dangerous.
It does not mean he is capable of wielding an assault weapon
at a roomful of children, and opening fire.
Do I sound defensive?
Maybe I am.
I am defensive because I am scared.
I am scared because I am raising a child who is marginalized—
which is fancy-pants way of saying he is an outsider, a stranger, and misunderstood.
In this climate of hate and fear and uncertainty,
the last thing you want to be is an outsider.
I realize now
you can’t change someone’s mind
by insisting they change their mind.
I can’t change your mind.
All I can do is tell our story.
All I can do is help you see him, and hear him, and know him.
He eats according to the clock.
Breakfast at 7:15.
Lunch at 11:45.
Dinner at 7:00.
Microwave popcorn at 8:30.
He loves cookies.
He loves his dog.
He loves people.
He loves people but he loves them from afar.
He would never hurt you.
I don’t know if they had autism or not.
It’s not for me to say.
My son has autism.
He is terrified of guns.
He thinks a house costs $500.
The thing is,
my fear is two-fold.
On one hand I have a child who is misunderstood.
Yet on the other hand,
he is vulnerable.
He can’t fight for himself.
In an emergency he simply freezes.
He is six-feet-two-inches tall and when he is nervous,
he chews his nails until they bleed.
Can you see this?
What if I am not there?
What if I am not there the next time
bullets rain from nowhere
all at once?
Who will look for him?
Who will look for the tall boy
rooted in fear like a tree in a storm?
Who will look for the boy who carefully
changes the water for his dog every single morning?
We are a nation living on the edge of our seats.
For every man, woman, child, infant
who took a bullet while you
please, don’t remember us this way.
Don’t remember us as
Right now, we are
a poem without rhyme,
a song with no rhythm.
I am sorry.
Yet I do believe there is always time in the story
for a different ending.
Except for you.
For you, the ending has already been decided.
Did you run?
Did you know?
Did you scream?
We will make it right for you.
I don’t know how,
but I have faith we will.
Maybe the smallest gestures could spark a healing flame.
A door held open wide.
Perhaps I am naïve.
The thing is,
with every news story,
and YouTube clip.
Where did they go?
Look around you, I tell him.
Look around you, buddy.
Look at the green, green grass
and the moon’s soft light.
Look at the summer leaves
slowly turning autumn gold.
This is where you will find them.
Teachers, mothers, sons, brothers.
Students, nurses, officers.
Could there be a simpler word?
The weight of our nation.
He likes waffles with a lot of syrup for breakfast.
All we have is each other.