The spectrum of emotions in Roanoke is palpable driving down the road, walking in the grocery store, pumping gas, and going to work. Our community is strong, but it is shaken. We have endured much hardship in the short nine years I have lived here. We are resilient, but we are weary from sadness.
I didn't know Alison well, but we had interacted briefly on several professional engagements and her smile is infectious. I refuse to say "was" because it IS infectious and always will be. Her enthusiasm for her work was both refreshing and engaging, and I always enjoyed watching to see where Alison would next be sent to cover a story in our region.
Alison was a JMU graduate. Anyone who went to or knows anyone who went to JMU knows that the JMU community is a unique one with strong bonds to an incredible family of students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Though I went to three schools along the 81 corridor and actually spent the least amount of time at JMU compared to the other two, I consider JMU my most meaningful social connection to a university because of this unparalleled bond of belonging and friendship that campus cultivates.
Alison had a passion for her career and her family and friends. You can tell from the myriad posts, stories, interviews, and pictures, Alison loved the people in her life and beamed this light of love to those around her, not just friends, but her TV viewer community as well.
All of this passion, love, and promise- shortened by the actions of a very sick man with a very powerful weapon. Without knowing the intricate details of what caused this man so much pain to deem murder an acceptable means to some end predetermined in his diseased mind, it is difficult to process yesterday's events without looking to place blame with someone or something. I don't have the answers, and even if we had "an answer", it would not right the wrongs committed. It would not reverse the killings at Sandy Hook, or the Aurora movie theater, or the Santa Barbara college campus, or the Gabby Giffords press event...sadly, there are so many events like these that there are too many to wish we could undo. These victims no longer have a voice. Though they have passionate champions keeping their memories alive and fighting for what they hope to become some semblance of justice, their individual voices have been silenced.
My point is that while Alison and all the other victims of these senseless acts no longer have a voice, I do. I am still alive, but I could easily have been "this" Alison. I have remained silent on this topic because I was scared for my own safety. I have lived in fear MY. ENTIRE. LIFE. I know what it's like to know someone so emotionally unstable that you take what others may consider ridiculous precautions to protect yourself "just in case" the camel's back is finally broken. I feel compelled to speak out for Alison and all the "other" Alison's of the world because that person, emotionally unstable, physically capable, and with 100% legal access to any firearm he so chose, was my father.
Do you know what it's like to fear for your safety every moment of every day before you've hit double digits? To not trust the law enforcement in your own hometown because they're all part of the "good ol' boys" network of brothers looking out for each other in ANY. WAY. POSSIBLE?! To ensure your safety by volunteering, at 12 years old, to help clean disassembled hunting rifles knowing a gun in pieces is a gun you can't shoot. To be left alone for hours in a cold, dirty pickup truck in the middle of nowhere on a Saturday morning because "you're not old enough to make you hunt with me but by goddamned I'm not missing another day of hunting season because of you". To be told your mom and stepfather would be killed if I told them what was said to me or how I was treated because I'm a whiny girl and, if I were a boy, "I wouldn't be a bother in the first place"? Then, to be surrounded by enough guns to outfit an infantry, and to know the owner of those weapons not only was a skilled marksman but also a man authorized by law to carry multiple weapons as an officer of the law? Changes to gun ownership would not have impacted my father's access to guns for a time, but how is it that people of such immoral character are hired in positions of public safety and able to use it against the citizens they take a vow to protect?
I am not famous. I am not rich. I am not special other than being my own individual person. But, I am a survivor by all accounts because I could have been this Alison. All of the pieces were in place for this to happen to me before August 27, 2015, and it did not. I was not shot or injured, but he was capable of much more. Unfortunately, other people close to me were further witness of this capacity. The fear of knowing and understanding such a person could and may break at any time, so angry at the world and his own daughter, every week was a tightrope of anxiety. My point is that it does not take USE of a gun to invoke fear, and that fear of unabashed hate and rage overtaking reason and common sense was just as real as looking in a loaded barrel. I was in therapy for years. YEARS. But, my scars are emotional ones. There is a lot more to this story, and I have always said I would write a book. I said this after Sandy Hook, when I was pregnant with our son, and time passed. I said this to myself after the California campus shooting. Time passed. Yesterday, another Alison lost her life looking into the barrel of a gun. Tonight, I wrote this post, and I'm on Chapter 2 of the story that could have been "another" Alison.
Ever since I learned of Alison and Adam's deaths, I have been overwhelmed with the kind of emotion that I imagine overcomes people who are able to lift cars or break down doors. I know I am only one person, one Allison, but I am a surviving one. More of "me" are out there and you need to share your experiences. Guns did not cause these deaths, but guns are causes of death and like any other risk to public safety, should be treated with utmost caution in reviewed and regulating how they are procured and who is permitted to own them. I do not object to the Second Amendment, I object to lack of respect for the carnage they may create inferred by rendering gun ownership as the inalienable right in and of itself. In my opinion, that is how gun ownership is treated in this country, and that line of thinking is wrong and deadly. My father died two weeks ago. I didn't visit him. I told virtually no one because I wanted no pity. I have survived him. Let's help others survive.
-Another Allison for Alison