COLUMN: How I feel about the March 2 shooting as a victim of gun violence
On March 2, 2018, I spent more than five hours hiding in a dark classroom.
After it was announced that a Central Michigan University student, James Eric Davis Jr., shot and killed his parents before running away to hide somewhere in Mount Pleasant, I wasn't sure how to feel.
The other students in the classroom with me talked about him, wondering out loud how he could have done what he did. They talked about how scary and messed up the situation was. They talked about how badly they wished they could go home.
As I sat there, listening to those conversations, all I could think about was how terrified and awful Davis Jr. and his family must have been feeling.
When I was 8 years old, my dad was shot and killed by a 15-year-old boy. My family was absolutely devastated, and has been ever since.
As a child, I had this picture in my head of my dad's killer as this evil, faceless villain. As far as I was concerned, he took my dad away from me. I hated him. However, as I grew older, the way I thought about him began to change.
When I turned 15 years old, the same age he was when he shot my dad at a shoe store, I realized how much I still felt like a child. He probably felt like that, too. I started to think about how lost and confused he must have felt that day. I imagined how alone and terrified he must have felt when he was charged as an adult and sentenced to life in prison.
For the first time, I started to consider how his actions devastated not just my family, but his family as well. Yes, he took my dad away from my family, and that will always be very painful. I won't ever forgive him for the fact that my grandparents will never be able to hug their son again. But his mom will never see her son outside of a prison's walls again. That's pretty horrible too.
I think about that man's mother often. She was on my mind all day on March 2, along with the Davis family. Someone they loved very much did a horrible thing that left them heartbroken and changed their lives forever. But that doesn't mean they suddenly stopped loving him. What an awful, confusing feeling that must be.
Over the past year, I've thought a lot about Davis Jr.'s siblings, Russell and Alexis. Both of their parents were taken from them in the same day, without any warning. That's an indescribably painful event for someone to go through. I imagine they were confused and torn between wanting to be angry at their brother and wanting to grieve with him.
It's easy for us as a society to see someone who has committed a crime and see them only for that act. We don't always remember that they have parents, siblings and other people in their lives who care about them and are probably also very hurt by that act.
It's also important to remember that in many cases, like Davis Jr., people sometimes do awful things when they are not in the right state of mind, often due to a mental illness. Far too often, mental illnesses go unnoticed or untreated, leaving that person in a very bad state of mind.
He lost his parents that day, too. They loved him and supported him, and I believe he wouldn't have wanted to hurt them if he was in his right mind. He is not a villain. He is a young man who is alone and grieving the loss of his parents because he had a gun when he shouldn't have. It's incredibly unfortunate that everything happened the way it did.
I feel so sorry for everything the Davis family has had to endure this past year. My heart goes out to you all. Losing your parent is a heartbreaking, life-altering experience.