Last night, Adam and I went to go see Captain Marvel. About thirty minutes from the end of the movie, the screen went black, the lights came on, and the emergency alert sounded. The fire alarm lights flickered and a pre-recorded robotic announcement told us to exit the theater in an orderly fashion.
And because I live in the United States, where we refuse to do anything about rampant gun violence despite everything, I didn’t try to look for or smell smoke. I didn’t try to remind myself what to do in case of fire. No.
I immediately thought, Oh fuck. What if this is an active shooter situation?
I looked around at the nearly evacuated theater and then around at the people crowded with me at the front exits, and I thought about how easy it would be for someone to come in up top and kill us.
I’ve been in places before when the fire alarm goes off or some other alert sounds. Usually, the people in the crowd joke with each other or roll their eyes or are exasperated at the inconvenience. Usually, people look around and wonder if it’s a mistake or a drill. Last night, we all got up pretty quickly after the alarm went off. As we were all leaving the theater, everyone was hushed. There was a quiet urgency as we all tried to leave, nearly pushing but not quite.
Once we were all outside in the cold night air, the tension broke a little. There was nervous laughter scattered across the parking lot, pockets of anger here and there. And all I could think about was how very fucked up it is that “active shooter” is the first place my brain went. And how fucked up it is that that’s now a normalized response.
What the fuck.