The topic of gun control is a very complicated one

March 5, 2013

Everyone is aware of the gun-control debate, or at least the violence that has become an everyday headline. I have no opinion regarding this issue; I can understand both sides. But I have witnessed an incident where someone lost their life to a gunshot.

It was at least 30 years ago, when I was at a university taking classes. I usually sat in the back row with two other women; they both were much younger than I was, but we always kept up a friendly chat about our work and weekends.

On this particular morning, I could tell one of them, her name was Lisa, must have had a bad weekend. She looked distracted. I knew she was divorced and had a young child. She told us very little, only that she had an argument with her ex-husband about dropping off the child late. I didn’t push it and we went on with our work.

We left the building and walked across the grass to the parking lot.

Our class got out 10 minutes before the rest of the classes, so we were alone. It was a warm September day, with swirling breezes scattering leaves and a hint that a cold front was coming in later.

I did not know she only had 10 minutes to live. As we left the grass and turned onto the asphalt, a sudden small gust of wind came up and blew my papers on the ground. We laughed and I bent over to pick them up; Lisa was just a couple of feet in front of me.

I saw him out of the corner of my eye, running toward her between the parked cars, and then he grabbed her head. She was down on the ground in a matter of seconds. My brain refused to process this, telling myself she fainted.

I went to her and knelt down to help her up. Her pupils were fixed and dilated, her face distorted from the gunshot. Her hand was also distorted, perhaps from trying to shield her face.

Why was my other friend hiding behind a car? I never gave a thought to the shooter; he was still in the parking lot with a gun. I kept looking down at her; I just couldn’t believe someone could die in a parking lot, with concrete and grass growing through cracks.

I remember him driving by us, Lisa on the ground and me just frozen in place. My other friend was running toward the building for help. Then everyone was pouring out to the parking lot.

I went to her funeral a few days later. It was still hot and humid for a September day. The church was right out of central casting, a white clapboard building on top of a hill. I was struck by how young everyone was at the place of interment.

People were milling around, openly sobbing. The sorrow and pain permeated throughout the church like I have never witnessed before.

I remember feeling old and out of place. But I was one of the last people to see her alive. Her parents were farmers, the salt of the earth. It was incomprehensible.

I think of her after all these years, when some small thing triggers the memory. I write about this because it is the only way to relate a common horror. I believe he would have killed her no matter what method.

Gun control is a complicated issue. Violence is multilayered, its roots, its causes and its deterrents. We’ve come a long way, but in my opinion our focus needs to return to these issues. I don’t mean to insult either side. I’ve forgotten a lot of things about that day, but I have never forgotten the most important thing, the newest angel - her name was Lisa.

  • Nancy Katz has a degree in creative writing and is the author of the book, "Notes from the Beach." She has written the column Around Town for the Cape Gazette for twenty years. Her style is satirical and deals with all aspects of living in a resort area on Delmarva.

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