Fourteen precious minutes

I’ve been thinking about some of the things you can accomplish in 14 minutes. 

I can go for a brisk mile walk. I can read a chapter in my book. I can watch the opening scenes of The Godfather, where Vito Corleone listens to requests from friends and neighbors, who’ve come to celebrate his daughter Connie’s wedding to Carlo. If I’m in the mood for a war movie, I can watch Tom Hank’s character, Captain Miller, in the movie Saving Private Ryan telling his company, “I’ll see you on the beach.”

You can get a lot done in 14 minutes. I can start making dinner. Heck, if I’m in a lazy mood, I can put in a frozen pizza into the oven and need only a few extra minutes for it to finish baking.

I can call my mom. My mom’s a fast talker. She thinks that every call is still long distance or collect so she normally keeps our conversations short. Knowing her, I bet I would probably have a few extra minutes to spare.

Image by Element5 Digital via Pexels.

Why the focus on 14 minutes? 

I’m not trying to be trite or morbid, but I’ve become focused on 14 minutes since the news reports first started coming in about the most recent school shooting. Last week, 28-year old Audrey Hale stormed into a private Christian school in Nashville, Tennessee and for 14 minutes ran free in the school killing three children and three adults, before police arrived and shot and killed her.

In 14 minutes, Hale, who had an AR-15 style rifle, a pistol-caliber carbine, and a handgun, killed three 9-year-olds, a custodian, a substitute teacher, and the head of the school. 

Fourteen long minutes.

In that span of time, the fate of six people was determined for all time. Three 9-year-olds will not be going home. A daughter will never again be able to talk with her dad, a son will not be able to hug his mom, and a school community will not be able to reach out to a beloved school administrator.

In a span of 14 minutes, everything changed.

The numbers are startling

The Nashville shooting marked the 19th shooting at a school or university in the past three months that left at least one person wounded. It was among 130 mass shootings this year in the U.S. with at least four wounded and it was the deadliest U.S. school shooting since last May’s massacre in Uvalde Texas, that left 21 people dead.

There’s no question that we have mental health problems in the U.S. I can blame the crisis on any number of problems, including the pandemic, job and unemployment losses, poverty, a crisis of hope, the list is a long one. We’re not alone. Other countries have mental health problems too.

However, we’re the only ones with a mass shooting problem.

Image by Katerina Holmes via Pexels.

So what’s the answer?

So, what happens next? If the countless other massacres, and yes, they are massacres, offer any indication, nothing will happen. The shooting will stay in the news for a few days, but other issues will soon take prominence. You’re seeing it already. Former President Trump’s indictment and the devastating tornadoes in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee have already started to push the shooting off the front page.

As expected, the extremes of both parties have come out fighting. The right has come out rallying around the Second Amendment. Folks on the left want to talk about nothing but the guns.

I grew up in a rural community where many people hunted and knew lots about guns. I don’t have an answer. And I know that there’s much to this issue, so I’m not going get into automatic versus semi-automatic and make some generic statement that turns out to be wrong.

I don’t have an easy solution, but I also refuse to bury my head in the sand and pretend that a problem doesn’t exist and that we don’t have an obsession with guns. (Case in point, the number of politicians who have Christmas photos with their families and guns in the picture. Yes, that’s exactly what I think of when I think about Christmas.)

Yes, yes, those for the Second Amendment will say that the guns did not go off on their own. They are absolutely correct, it took a person to load and fire that weapon. However, we’ve let this problem go on for too long. How many more kids have to die before we act?

Why are we not talking about ways to solve this problem? Yes, it may mean some changes to how we buy and carry guns, but it could also mean changes to how we provide mental health services.

Were the Founding Fathers thinking of AR-15s when they created the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms? I doubt it, but I still feel that common sense solutions exist.

My issue isn’t guns or no guns, it’s that we’re not having civil dialogue. Instead, each side is beholden to an interest group and is trying to score a 30-second sound bite. We should be having tough conversations, instead of running away from them.

In the end, I keep thinking of the parent who planned to pick their kid up at the end of the school day only to realize that little Jenny or Jimmy isn’t coming back. I think too of the husband that kissed his wife goodbye in the morning, only to realize that the kiss really was goodbye … forever.

Taking back those 14 minutes

Why are we not willing to do anything to make this problem go away? We’re talking life and death here, why can’t we have calm, serious conversations and action about ways to solve this problem?

We can’t get those 14 minutes back, but we must do something to make sure this doesn’t happen again, right?

48 thoughts on “Fourteen precious minutes

Add yours

  1. Well written and engaging on a tough subject. But I do have a question “…..each side is beholden to an interest group and is trying to score a 30-second sound bite.” Who do you perceive to be the interest groups here…..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not sure about the well-written part r.Douglas. It’s a tough story to write about. I find writing a tough enough job to begin with, keeping a reader interested, I really hate writing political stuff, because you’re bound to upset someone. Saying that, I thought it needed to be addressed. I was probably a little careless with that line. I was definitely thinking of the NRA’s (National Rifle Association) huge financial support of conservatives. On the Democrat’s side, I was thinking of the Brady PAC and others and thinking broader of well-funded groups that support progressive causes. I hope that helps.


  2. Brian – I kind of feel at a loss as to what to say, but feel I should say something. Observing this from the UK, we just can understand the mentality in the States towards the guns so it makes it very difficult to get our heads around the arguments. What struck me with this latest attack is the fact that the attacker was female – am I right in thinking that’s unusual? I do think your post is taking a good approach, by looking at some of the social/societal issues bringing about these attacks and the need to address those – mental health, gangs/peer pressure, unemployment etc – the list is long and we do need to address these issues – everywhere. We might not have the gun culture in the UK but in some areas there are problems with knives – so we do need to address the underpinning issues contributing to the acceptance of the use of guns and knives.


    1. Yes, Brenda, I think that is a subtle difference too, the attacker being female. Some of the tabloids made a bigger point of focusing on her identifying as transgender. I chose not to go there. Yes, this must seem strange to you in the UK. But in the end, it’s strange to me too. I find it sad that we have so little compassion for each other.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. An incredibly powerful post. As someone who lives in the UK, where we haven’t had a single gun-related death in a school since 1996 (when gun control laws were changed following the Dunblane massacre), I cannot understand how this can keep happening in the US. It’s unspeakably sad. No guns = no gun deaths, how much simpler does it need to be?!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. As someone who lives in the neighbouring country, it always feels so devastating, upsetting and helpless to read about the school shootings. I don’t want to become desensitized to them but the frequency at which they happen and the apathy they are faced with – and by apathy, I mean political inaction – is very demoralizing. So I can only imagine how you feel.

    Parents should not have to worry about this and kids should be kids and not have to partake in active shooter drills in schools.

    Enough is enough. But sadly it isn’t in the eyes of the lawmakers.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Brian, your post is spot-on. In MY opinion (and it’s just that, an opinion), nothing is being done or even thought of as a clear solution because we, as a nation of opposing views, are afraid to stand up and fight this because the NRA and other special interest groups have so much power and we are afraid of inciting a negative reaction that manifests itself physically. Any solution won’t please everyone, but no solution hurts everyone as well. Oh, and Jodi Piccoult wrote a book called “19 Minutes” that you might want to read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea, I’ve heard about Jodi Piccoult’s book. My wife had suggested it to me years ago. When we had young kids, there was no way that I could read that book. My active imagination would have given my nightmares for weeks. I should probably think about reading it now. Yes, I’m bothered by the interest groups pushing down discussion. I don’t want to take away anyone’s guns. I get that anything can be used as a weapon in the hands of the wrong people, but I do want us to talk about what can be done about folks with mental health issues getting a gun and storming into a school and killing innocent people. Why are people not talking about solutions?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Beautifully written, Brian. The more voices the better, but I’m with you — at a loss about the why, the inaction to end the madness. Your creative and heartbreaking approach using “14 minutes” captured my attention…and pulled at my heart. Thank you for writing what I can’t. I’m beyond words.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yea, the 14 minutes approach probably wasn’t fair or me. Talking about making dinner one minute, jumping into a discussion about guns the next. I just find it so sad. I can’t imagine the thoughts running through the kids heads, the adult teachers. It’s just so sad. I try to not get political in my writing. I hate when people only tell one side of a story and I always worry about my political posts not being fair, but I felt with this one, that I needed to say something. ugh.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not a gun expert. I know enough to get myself in trouble. However, the thing I find troubling is: what makes one gun military-style. versus another? You can customize a rifle to have certain features such as semi or fully-automatic fire, the size of the clip, the type of stock, a scope, etc. You can even make it look different. For example, I went hunting with a group one time and a friend of friend had a pink rifle. I remember thinking it looked simple enough. The thing was as powerful as anything I’ve ever seen in my life. Thanks for commenting Sheila.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Let me think. I guess what I was trying to say is if you have a gun that fires multiple rounds – enough to obliterate a 9 year old child – it should be illegal. Call it military or just insanity.
        Ban them.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I definitely agree that we have a heart and habit problem. We’ve lost simple compassion for others. We fail to see that if I do X (point this gun and pull back the trigger), a bullet is going to travel and hit Y (the innocent person in front of me. It’s sad all around.


  7. Oh my goodness what a powerful and meaning post, Brian. I’m reminded of the book The Persuaders by Anand Giridharadas. In part he looked at the Russian interference of the 2016 election and found that what they were doing in large part was just exacerbating the divide that already exists in this country. And the corrosiveness of the divide isn’t a particular issue – it’s that we believe it’s no longer believe that its worth talking with one another because nothing will change. So thank you for reminding us that we need to have the conversation in order to stop this heartbreaking problem!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “Nothing will change.” It’s such a corrosive belief. I even have to fight it. I wrote the piece Friday night and went back and forth all day yesterday on whether to hit publish. It’s not even that inflammatory, but no one likes to talk civilly anymore. Both conservative and liberal thought have brought about amazing policy advances, but we seem right now to prefer pointing the finger at the other side.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I struggled with the contrast. I didn’t want to be dishonest with folks . . . but the 14 minutes hit me. It always does in these situations, the time that police have been called and a shooter is on the run. It’s the choices that hit me. If I stay, do I avoid being seen. If I run, does that give me away. There’s no right answer, it’s such a heart-wrenching choice.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Well said. You are voicing the frustration many of us have. When it comes to the amount of gun violence in our country, we are up there with third world countries. No civilized countries come close to us when it comes to arbitrary killing of our fellow citizens. I grew up in an area where wild game hunting was both a popular sport and a big source of revenue. People owned shot guns, not AR-15s. Later, I raised a family in Columbine. How wasn’t the mass shooting at Columbine High School a one off? Why did it grow to where guns now kill more children than car accidents? I wish I had the answer. You right, we have to find a way to stop it.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you for writing about this Brian. I find it all too easy to go off on a rant on social issues so I just try to not on my own blog anymore- especially on what seems to be these either/or topics. Everything seems to preclude finding that middle ground- like when did the concept of compromise become so difficult, and so politicized… We need to have these discussions but we also need to learn how to listen respectfully at the same time.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “we also need to learn how to listen respectfully” . . . what’s that? Ha, ha. Everyone knows that they know and don’t need to listen to the other side. I almost didn’t publish the piece Deb. I thought two or three times about staying clear of it, but something has to be done. The number of incidents is just so stinking,.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Brian, I really appreciate your balanced approach to this issue. You nailed it: “We’re not having civil dialogue.” It breaks my heart that the discussion isn’t about the innocent lives lost, but instead arguing about whether guns or mental illness are the problem. There are millions of people with mental illness who do not act violently, and there are millions of responsible guns and who would never use them to harm another. The solution is not so simplistic. And the finger-pointing is no form of progress.

    Maybe 10 years ago, I did a deep dive into the literature after Sandy Hook and, at the time, the commonality between nearly all school shooters was growing up in a fatherless home. I took that to mean that our young people need more guidance and support than they are currently receiving, and to simply feel seen. What if we were to expand the “Big Brother” program nationwide, have dads volunteer to teach life skills to boys at their kids’ schools, or otherwise offer mentorship to young men who feel lost? While that may not be *the* root cause or *best* solution, it could be a start.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yup, spot on, Erin. I wrote the piece for that very reason, no one talks about the innocent lives. Instead, it’s “fortifying your position.” I have my thoughts, but I know I don’t have an answer that I know in my heart will stop this problem from ever happening again. We need less finger pointing and real solutioning. Your idea is the better than I’ve heard in a long time. Thanks for sharing, thanks for letting me know I wasn’t just ranting to myself. Very much appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Oh my gosh Brian, this piece should be in an op-ed. 👏🏼 14 minutes! Nothing will be done unless it happens to the families of those who look away and think that this isn’t their problem. This isn’t about infringing on 2nd Amendment rights…never has been. But if folks think they are going to lose millions of dollars with their special interests, then nothing is going to be done as we have seen time and time again.

    I love this “I don’t have an easy solution, but I also refuse to bury my head in the sand and pretend that a problem doesn’t exist and that we don’t have an obsession with guns.” And you are so right, now this latest mass shooting is swept under the rug and you don’t hear a darn thing about it because attention has been veered away from this along with many other regional and national tragedies.

    So often I hear about these weapons, especially the high-powered weapons that are illegally obtained, but many records show that these weapons were legally purchased. Now what? It seems like we have such a disregard for life. So many innocent people are caught in the crossfire. Sadly, I don’t think lawmakers are going to come to an agreement on how to protect and avoid the magnitude of lost lives based on their egos and arrogance. There’s a lot to be said about the special interest saturating politics these days, and it seems like it’s in their best interest, as opposed to listening to the people they represent and the voices of those who have now gone silent. 14 minutes. 💖🙏🏼💖

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I love what you wrote Kym. So well thought out. I thought a couple of times about not posting the piece. I’m not usually a political blogger. The line you mentioned kept forcing me to take a look at myself and push ahead. We have an obsession. I mentioned the Christmas card pix with guns. If someone loves to hunt or target shoot. God bless ya, I have no problems. But when you try to come across as some holier than thou Christian family and have little kids posing with automatic weapons that kill, just stop. You’re an idiot. You are so right too about special interest groups. The average citizen is now an afterthought.

      The end of the day, I keep coming back to the victims. Who’s thinking of them. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts Kym. I’m glad my thought made some sense. Hope they helped.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh my dear Brian, I know about that particular photo you are talking about and I was so appalled that this was a “CHRISTMAS” family group shot. I don’t recall seeing Christ standing among his disciples with crossbows and arrows. Sorry for the sarcasm, but this is ludicrous! 😡 At the end of the day as you said, I keep thinking about the victim and their families. This was a domino effect of tragedy for sure.

        But trust me, your thoughts were aptly put and tastefully expressed. Thank you for keeping the victims at the forefront. 🤗

        Liked by 1 person

  12. So sorry to hear about this latest shooting! Your article is good and I feel your frustration. It seems talking about the issue–done lots already–won’t change much. As you say, it’s a mindset that won’t change.

    Part of me is inclined to think, “If that tyrant you’re arming yourselves to fight (re: the 2nd Amendment) ever does appear, I hope it’ll be worth all the senseless gun deaths have taken place while you’re all waiting.” I’ve heard this justification so many times: “We need powerful weapons to fight back if some Hitler-type seizes power.” Yet, when I picture individuals or groups taking on the tyrant-controlled US army, what a blood bath that would be!

    An American once told me, “You Canadians must live in fear if your criminals have guns and you don’t.” In fact, we don’t. Our mindset is different here. Our police have guns, and we trust them. The average street kid can’t buy a handgun. Cops aren’t afraid when they stop a car, it will turn into a shootout, so their finger isn’t already on the trigger.

    Also–true on both sides of the border–criminals are fairly responsible sorts. Organized criminals aren’t the ones doing these mass shootings. It seems to be when a mentally ill person gets his/her hands on a military weapon — often from a parent’s legal weapons cache — that mass murders happen.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Kudos to you for your objectivity amidst an extremely hot topic. Why would anyone have need for an automatic weapon other than to destroy life on a mass scale? How much money passes between gun lobbyists and politicians? Why has this abomination been allowed to continue? Nuff said.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. As a naturalized citizen and speaking from this perspective, I think that people here have become desensitized by these news. The entire country came together on Sept 11 because the attack was perceived as coming from alien nationals, yet US citizens massacre one another on a regular basis, and the country will not come together to solve the problem. I simply do not understand it. Oh, another six children just died in a school shooting, I shake my head and I go to work as if nothing had happened. The life of innocent children! Lives lost for no good reason whatsoever! I have been considering moving back home. My country is dangerous, there is a lot of crime there because there is real poverty. I mean, real poverty and little chance of overcoming that for the great majority. But there are no mass shootings of children in school and that goes a long way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You bring up a great point Alessandra. When it was an attack from outside, we came together. When it’s inside, oh just another shooting. So sad. I’m not sure this helps you, but I do feel that we’ll eventually solve this, but it’s going to take a lot of brave people.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I can’t talk about the issue of guns, since I live in a country that’s never used guns. But I love the idea of the 14 minutes. There really is a lot of things you can do in 14 minutes. Be it by benefiting or destroying our lives, or worse, others’. And we tend to underestimate those tiny pockets of time. Thanks for the food for thought!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s are lots of great things about the US. Unfortunately, our lack of safeguards right now is not one of them. Yes, I agree with you about the time. It seems like a small amount of time, but can be so valuable! Every little bit of time makes a difference!


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