Last week, a shooter attacked a classroom at a community college in southern Oregon. In the aftermath, the media recounted incidents of gun violence through the decades. We thought back to the mass killings at a church in Charleston, South Carolina; a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado; a Sikh temple in Wisconsin; and a military installation in Texas. Then, of course, we thought about the horrific school shootings in particular, massacres at Virginia Tech, Columbine High School, and Sandy Hook Elementary.

Some believe we’re becoming numb to these attacks as they continue to occur, but for others, it feels like the opposite: We seem to have more reason to be afraid of our world than ever. The news immediately triggered familiar fears for me, because I am a survivor of a school shooting.

When I was in eighth grade, I witnessed a fellow classmate—a neighbor I had known for years—shoot and kill my teacher with a rifle. For 10 long years after, I waited for God to make the world a safe place. During that decade, I begged God for protection but held on to him in a fragile way, worried that he would let my world implode again without warning.

By the time I turned 16, I routinely suffered panic attacks. I became acutely aware of violence on the news and in the world. When I was alone at home, I would hide under the kitchen counter with the phone on my ear, anxious about anything I couldn’t see or know.

The thing about being afraid for a long time is that you get comfortable with it. And before you know it, you start to believe fear itself keeps you safe and prevents bad things from happening. Fear seemed to protect me. I thought that as long as I stayed vigilant, nothing bad would happen.

I believed ...

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