With freedom comes responsibility

A few years ago, we decided to spend time with my husband’s family at a resort in North Carolina. With no cell phone and limited wi-fi, we were ready for some much needed rest and relaxation. The Resort was awesome, with plenty to do. On the evening of July 4th, the excitement was contagious. Dressed in the familiar red, white, and blue, we shared a wonderful dinner and soon, a parade ensued while children ran around with sparklers and glow sticks. As the night wore on, we were standing on the balcony of our cabin watching a display of colors explode throughout the empyrean sky, celebrating a 200+ year old tradition honoring our fight for freedom as a sovereign nation.

Later, exhausted from the day’s events, we eventually went to bed. Sleeping soundly, I was awakened by the telephone. It was my sister. Realizing the time, I had that dreaded feeling, “this can’t be good”. My mind began racing . . . was it my brother, was it my mom?

Mom’s had an accident“, she declared, “she’s in the hospital”. An accident? What kind of accident?  But before I could get the words out, she continued, “Mom was with friends on a cruise in the intracoastal watching fireworks and a stray bullet hit her in the chest.  She’s in intensive care, they had to do open heart surgery”.

I paused, trying to take in her words . . . did she say bullet? I couldn’t imagine. Why would anyone shoot a gun in an area where people were celebrating? It made no sense to me.

As it turned out, my mom was hit by a stray bullet. It entered the left front area of her chest near her clavicle, traveled downward bruising her lung, and eventually puncturing the left ventricle of her heart. She was slowly bleeding out. My mom had been a victim of “celebratory gunfire.”

I have read about celebratory gunfire before and even watched it happen on TV shows. Though I knew about it, I never really understood the impact it can have. After all, it only happens on TV, right? But, unbelievable as it seems, celebratory gunfire is a real problem.

In a Tampa article, police shared that people get hit by “celebratory gunfire” all the time but “trying to stop it can feel all but pointless”. That’s a pretty sad statement. Although the practice is uniquely dangerous and illegal, the difficulty identifying the trigger happy celebrant makes it nearly impossible to enforce.

How interesting and ironic that this happened on Independence Day.  This is the day we celebrate freedom, the freedom to govern our country as we see fit, the freedom to practice whatever faith we choose, AND the freedom to own guns. The problem is, with freedom comes responsibility. Yes, we are free but where is the line between our freedom to choose and our responsibility to recognize the impact our choice has on others? After all, someone abused that freedom and it nearly killed my mom.

In case you are wondering, my mom is a walking miracle. To the amazement of medical staff, friends, and family, she recovered quickly, was home within a week, and continues to improve. Unfortunately, two others were also hit that evening by stray bullets and ended up in the same hospital as my mom. They were not as lucky.

I cannot force anyone to take this information and make a difference but I do hope that it causes one to stop and think, even for just a moment. I lost my father to gunfire by his own hand. Like a perpetual ripple, he made a choice that impacts my life everyday. And now, the choice of a stranger has done the same. While my mom is healing on the outside, the inside is a very different story.

Thankfully, we live in a free country and I would not want it any other way.  But freedom is a very powerful privilege, it is a gift that must be handled with care. For in the words of Friedrich Nietzsche, “Freedom is the will to be responsible for ourselves”. Let’s please take that responsibility seriously.

Given the statistics , there are many other stories like mine out there. If you have a story to share about a holiday experience, please share it below.

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