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29 October 2022

About a month ago, Michael and I went to the movie theater on base to see, "Don't Worry Darling" a film starring Florence Pugh. I first was introduced to Florence Pugh in the remake of "Little Women" and I loved the strength she brought to the role. Ever since then I was a fan of her work. At this point I was halfway finished with my intensive outpatient therapy and was feeling better about being out in public, so Michael and I made it a date night.

Base theaters are HUGE and there was probably about 5-6 of us viewers in the theater, so I guess the movie wasn't a big hit among the personnel on base. As the film went on, the story is about a woman (Florence Pugh) "losing her mind" as she discovers her entire life, she's known is a lie and the people she once trusted are not who she knew them to be. I'm relating to this core them in the movie. I thought to myself, "hmm... so learning and no longer denying truth makes you and how others see you, as crazy?" I ate my popcorn in familial amusement and enjoyed the film.

At the end of the film, the credits rolled and Michael and I were the last in the theater to leave our seats. As we stood up to head for the exits when the people who had left the theater prior to us ran back in a panic shouting, "Active Shooter, Active Shooter!" Michael and I stopped and stared. The man shouted again, "Active shooter, real world it’s NOT A DRILL!" I saw the Korean man who worked the concessions stands hiding with them and thought to myself, “awh man… this is real.” Michael and I ran to the front of the theater and hid under the movie chairs.

While we were hiding, I looked over at Michael and his eyes were wide open and terrified but composed. I imagined mine looked similar but inside I was a MESS. I tried to compose myself thinking, "Kristin, think of your training, think of your training." I scanned the exits but realized it would put us in direct line of sight to the shooter if they came in. I tried to see if there was any door to barricade, but the entrance was far and wide open. I started to panic in my mind. My training wasn’t keeping me calm, I felt overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with fear on top of my already depressed, anxious and recovering suicidal self. I thought to myself, "all this time you've been feeling like you want to die, and now it might happen and your terrified and want to live".

I started to think of the shooting at one of the movie theaters in Aurora, Colorado years ago. I thought of the children in Uvalde TX. I thought about my friend who was bombed in Afghanistan. I thought of work. I sat there and thought, this is just too much. I looked up at Michael and thought to myself, "I'm the military member between the two of us but this all is just too much for me right now. I'm so tired of having to be strong" As I sat there in silent panic and fear, I leaned closer to Michael and I felt him hold my hand. He then said, "I'm here. It’s going to be okay baby."

It felt like forever but in reality, it was probably 10-15 mins later when the Security Forces officers (military police) entered the theater. They said this was an "exercise " and I heard some of the people above us sigh and laugh.

An exercise??? Laughing??? I was scared for my life and didn't find this funny.

When the MP's got to us and asked if we were ok, I honestly said, "No I am NOT ok." Then started to cry. Michael held me and we walked to the car. Should I find this funny? Should I feel relief? What I felt was shock. Overwhelmed with fear and never wanted to leave my apartment again. "The world is not safe" I thought.

Later that night Michael and I sat and reflected about the experience. What we thought and how it made us feel. I told him how I was going to cancel my coffee date with my friend that was scheduled for the next day because I was scared to leave the apartment. He understood. He tucked me in bed to sleep. I thanked him for holding my hand because despite all the chaos of that moment, that simple action--that natural gesture, made me feel "safe."

As I went to sleep that night, I felt a shift in me. All this time I've been craving "safety" and "protection" and despite Michael being my husband, I didn't always trust that he would be that: "safety" "protection" for me; at least when we were not on the same page. Over the past year of living together as a married couple it seemed like we were not on the same page ALOT. I'll go as far as, most of the time. But that action of Michael "holding my hand" when I was totally afraid, reminded me that we are on the same team. He's not out to "get me" despite what my trauma tells me sometimes. Michael CAN protect me, and CAN be safe for me. It's OK to trust him. Like he said, "He's here". It's ok to let him be here for you.

The next day I decided to have coffee with a friend and had a wonderful time. I realized that yes, the world is not safe and it can be terrifying and overwhelming. But within all the chaos and despair, there can be beauty within it. Safety within it. The Active Shooter incident was TERRIFYING but I'm thankful that it reminded me of who I was, a person that does TRULY WANT TO LIVE. The experience also reminded me of who I married and showed me that I was never really alone. Maybe I CAN be safe if I allow myself to be.


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