I once heard a mother say, "To be a parent is to never again know peace of mind." At the time I was childless and I thought she was being melodramatic. Now, with 23 years of parenting behind me, I can certainly see her point.
When your kids are small, you worry about a plethora of dangers. There are the unseen threats like germs and viruses. I’ve seen moms go through a whole bottle of anitbacterial hand gel during the course of a single play date.
There are biting dogs and stranger danger and low-flying aircraft. The thought of the latter leads to concerns about falling space debris and meteors that make it through the earth’s atmosphere intact. In any other adult, these fears would probably lead to a diagnosis that includes the word "paranoia." In a parent, it’s pretty much normal.
As your children get older and start to move away from the cocoon of the family there are new worries: bullies, that omnipresent "bad crowd," junk food. Sometimes you get blindsided. Once, Molly went home with a classmate to work on a school project. She came home reeking of cigarettes. Add secondhand smoke to the list.
Then your child turns 16, starts driving and your worries enter a whole new realm. I don’t think our children realize that while they’re out on an innocent run to the library or grocery store, their parents are caught up in imaginings of fiery crashes involving the jaws of life and air ambulances.
Last week’s news gave me yet another worry to add to my growing list: celebratory gunfire.
Marquel Peters, 4, was killed when he was struck by a bullet that pierced the roof of the Decatur church building where he sat with his mother, waiting for a midnight New Year’s Eve service to begin. His picture was all over the news. He was a handsome boy with sparkling eyes and a smile that made me want to smile right back. That is, until I remembered that this little boy is stone cold dead because some idiot thought it would be fun to pop off a few rounds to welcome in the new year.
Research has shown that a bullet fired into the air can climb two miles and remain in flight for more than a minute. As it falls, the bullet reaches a velocity of 300 to 700 feet per second. A velocity of only 200 feet per second is sufficient to penetrate the human skull.
Good grief. A person has to be a special kind of stupid to shoot a gun in the air and not entertain the possibility that it might actually hit someone on its way down. You don’t have to be Sir Isaac Newton to see that this behavior can result in property damage, injury and, all too often, death.
A Google search shows over 100,000 hits for the phrase "celebratory gunfire." The problem has become so widespread that the Los Angeles Police Department has a special program targeting the issue. Their New Year’s Eve Gunfire Reduction Program Web site ends with the warning: "Remember, what goes up will come down."
In Macedonia, where it is traditional to celebrate holidays and weddings with gunfire, the interior ministry has launched a campaign called "Bullets Are Not Greeting Cards. Celebrate Without Weapons."
A little closer to home, on Dec. 31, 2004, a 75-year-old Orlando man was mortally wounded in the heart from a falling bullet just before midnight. Police traced the fatal bullet to a gun confiscated from a man firing into the air more than a mile away. The shooter was charged with manslaughter. Like I said ... a special kind of stupid.
From my home here in north Hall County, I sometimes hear gunshots coming from down by the lake. Innocent fun? No, not at all. More like an accident waiting to happen. And something else for me to worry about.
Teressa Glazer is a Gainesville businesswoman. Her column appears regularly on alternate Fridays and on gainesvilletimes.com.