If there’s one place I feel most at home, it’s at a high school football game.
Despite emotions running high and the competitive juices flowing, there’s just something peaceful to me about a high school football game. It’s where fans, coaches and players don’t see race and they don’t see ethnicity; they see teammates.
Regardless of skin color, everyone is maroon and white on the Benjamin Russell sideline.
But with tensions running high politically and mass shootings happening more and more every day, I’ve always been afraid of something bad happening at a football game.
Last week, those fears were realized.
I’m not someone who lives her life in fear. Life is too short to be scared of what could happen. And we all do something every day that could get us killed more likely than anything else, and that’s get in a car and drive.
But with mass shootings at schools, churches, concerts, you name it, I’ve always feared the headline, “Mass shooting ravages high school football game.”
Last week, that happened.
I came back to the office as I normally do every Friday night. I was up to my ears in photos, stories, deadlines, pages. I don’t have time for much else. But when my former coworker and good friend Lindsey Smith texted me, saying “ARE YOU OK?!” I knew something was wrong.
I immediately looked up what she was talking about and found a story about the shooting at the LeFlore-Williamson game.
This mass shooting had seemingly different motives than many. From what I read throughout the multiple days after, it seemed like there was neighborhood beef — or so Mobile police chief Lawrence Battiste alluded to during his press conference later that night — and perhaps a fight broke out before the shooting.
But regardless of the motive, the thing I had feared for so long came to life.
My sanctuary — and the sanctuary of so many others — had been compromised. The safety one feels at a football game, regardless of the competitiveness of what’s happening on the field or how emotionally invested fans are, was tarnished.
I’ve written about several mass shootings over the course of my time as sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, but this one hit home more than any of the rest.
Thankfully I could respond to my friend Lindsey and say the shooting wasn’t close to home. Thank God all the hype surrounding last week’s game between Benjamin Russell and Clay Central didn’t amount to something so unthinkable.
Like my editor Santana Wood wrote a few weeks ago, I unfortunately don’t know the answers.
I don’t know if upping security at AHSAA games is the answer; I don’t know if gun control and how much and what type is the answer; I don’t know if more mental healthcare or taking better care of our kids or just continuing to keep the conversation open is the answer. I simply don’t know.
But what I do know is I don’t want to live my life in my fear. I don’t want to think this week’s football game could be the last. I don’t want parents to not allow their kids to attend games because they’re afraid of what could happen.
I don’t want the sanctuary to be taken away.