Friday, September 19, 2014

The Shot Heard Around the World . Sort of.

When I started even remotely thinking about writing a blog about Systema, I immediately told myself " I will not write about the shooting. I won't."
As the few days in between deciding to write about training and Systema, it is the one thing that kept creeping back into my head.
"How can I not write about the ONE thing that single-handily changed how I felt about Systema?"

It was a week in November, and honestly, I don't even know what day or year anymore.Not that long ago.
My boyfriend (now fiancee) at the time, was at a school in Alabama. I spent my time while he was gone training and working and maintaining our household...the usual.
Our Systema class had just wrapped up on a Thursday night...and those of us who stuck around to chat with our instructor had filed into a back room. As they meandered off, I asked my former instructor if he was still going to the "event". He wasn't sure at that point, and I had only asked him because I was supposed to lend him a weapon or something of the sort...
When I asked him why he wasn't going ...he said" I don't know..I haven't heard anything from anyone."
There was something about the energy shift in the room, in our space, that creeped over me. I remember thinking to myself "oh God..don't go".
He looked over at me and said "( I will not use the names)"is being kinda weird lately...just , I dunno.It is what is is , I guess."
I immediately quipped " you don't have to go, besides, I can't figure out the whole where the weapon thing is".( I was supposed to make sure he had some firearm to use).
Either he didn't hear me, or ignored me(which wasn't unusual)..and we walked out.

That was the last time I had seen my former instructor without bullet wounds.
The following day, it was business as usual around my son was with his father for the day , which meant I got to sit and relax and watch movies and read.

When my phone rang, I saw it was my boyfriend, I thought nothing of it.We were still in the romantical phase where he casually called me to say hi and we would talk about nothing and everything.
At the same time, my son was being dropped off by his father.My son, who was about to turn 11, came bouncing into the house, chatting away, telling me about his weekend. My phone was still ringing so I finally told my son to settle so I could talk on the phone.

I answered...and I don't specifically remember what happened next. I remember sitting on my bed, with the book I was reading, and my son was leaning against the doorway. His face went from having a huge smile on it, to looking completely pale and now had watered eyes. Whatever was being told to me, I was evidently repeating out loud. Later on , I was told this was described as 'third party shock'
I immediately remember yelling at my son to leave the room and he scattered. I closed the door and managed to get back on my bed. I asked whatever was said to be repeated.
"(Instructor) has been shot..they don't know if he's gonna live. I don't know if hes gonna live...(pause). I mean..I don't know what's going on..I just got a call.."

I remember specifically asking if it was on purpose. I don't know why I asked this, but in my head..if it was an accident , he would have a better chance of living. But then again, the person who shot him was a "top weapons expert/Systema badass" really could have gone either way.
I don't even know what I said after I understood what was going on. I just remember my phone was on the floor and I was too. I remember praying for the first time in 20 years. I chanted every prayer in every language I could think of. Then it hit me. I had to tell our training partners. No one else, other than our instructor's closest friend and the people at the seminar, knew what happened. Once I realized his friend was on the way to be with him, I knew I had to be the one to tell everyone else.
I opened my bedroom door and my son stood there, clutching his Systema Tshirt and said" is he going to live?"
We both broke down immediately. I had cried before..alot...but not like this. I immediately began throwing up and feeling dizzy. I told my son it would be ok, but he and I both knew it wouldn't.
I looked for my phone and noticed my computer screen was up . I immediately called the first person who I could see that was online.
I didn't think about what he was doing or if he was eating with his wife. I didn't think " what if he was having a bad day" and I will never forgive myself for that. I just did what I did.
I remember trying to not cry as the words forcefully came from my mouth. I remember him yelling and almost crying and going silent. This was a man who was probably hands down, the best partner I have ever trained with. We both sat on the phone ,quiet. I heard his wife ask what was happening and my son asked the same.
I don't even remember who I called next. I remember thinking "this is not my place, I don't even know (instructor) that well"....and "oh God..I can't do this".
The course of the next few minutes were pretty vague. I was in shock combined with hysteria. No amount of Systema breathing I learned kicked in. Not once. Ever.And, only minutes had passed since I got the phone call. These minutes seemed like hours.
I decided I had to call all the hospitals in Dallas, where our instructor was being transported to. The last one I called was the one I was born in. I felt like since I was born there, then I should have easy access to how he was doing.
I was wrong.
I had been hung up on more times in 3 minutes than ever in my life. I was lucky that the first nurse told me his Starflight just landed...but that's all I got out of her.
I finally decided to call back and violate every HIPPA law known to man.I lied my way through maybe 8 nurses and operators and found one very compassionate ER/ICU nurse.
Her words will haunt me for the rest of my life.
"He doesn't look good. You may want to tell your family to get down here. There are alot of grown men crying and in shock...I don't know what happened but I've never seen anything like this.Have you checked to see when the next flight from Austin to Dallas is?"
As I hung up with her, I realized I had not checked to see if any of the men that were at the seminar were OK. I called back and asked to get patched to the ER waiting room.
A very soft spoken Hispanic man answered the phone. I immediately began asking him if there were any men in the room . He had no idea what I was talking about. I realized he only spoke Spanish, so I immediately shifted gears. I asked him if there were any grown men in the room , maybe covered in blood, or that looked in shock. He said he had just seen some men walk away and set the phone down to go after them. He came back and said they walked too far away from where he could catch up. He asked me what happened.
I told him what I could translate in Spanish and, before I knew it he was consoling me. He told me to wait a second and got back on the phone and asked me if it was OK if he prayed for my former instructor while we were on the phone.
He started praying the rosary and said he would give me a condensed version so I can figure out what to do next, but would continue praying and looking for the group of men. This was now the second time in 20 years I had prayed.When we hung up , I realized I had no idea who this man was..but he was the first person that helped me breathe again.
The next few hours turned into a cacophony of phone calls, messages, check ins, and figuring things out. I called in sick to work just so I could stand by and hope that there was good news. I started a new job and had a previous track record for not ever calling in sick.
I called and messaged every "higher up" in the C.O.C.. I could think of. Repeatedly. I even called and messaged the shooter. Alot.
I got little or no response from the C.O.C. I take that back..I got a blanket email from the main group. I got a message from another tier level instructor that said "thanks, we've got it from here"or something of the sort.
I don't know what I was going to say to these men, but I was going to say something. It was day two of the incident and not one word on social media, or anywhere about it.Not one.
By day three I had enough. I knew that my classmates were at the hospital working in shifts, I knew that this man, my instructor,  had two amazing children that may or may not have a father return home. I knew that if he returned home, I, personally, did not want him to worry about anything. I told myself if I planned his return home to be serene, then that meant , I put it into the universe that he WAS returning home.
I began calling my friends who own restaurants to ask if I could borrow their kitchen overnight , because I was going to do a one woman bake sale to raise money. None of them were shocked, but wanted to know why. I told them. They asked why I needed to fundraise. I said "because maybe he can get med-transport home, that's why". Finally, one friend suggested I try an online Fundraising site.
I picked the first one I saw.My lack of sleep and determination wanted to waste no time. It occurred to me that maybe, my extremely private, antisocial, quiet instructor would not want this. I texted the person closest to him. They said they would ask him . I waited about 2 minutes before I texted back.
I got no response ( after all , this person was dealing with reality of being with him).
Finally a day later I got the go ahead. I had already written the fundraiser, set up the account and made sure I understood the terminology.
I hit the publish button and waited. I messaged everyone I could think of...and I fell asleep.
The next day I woke up to a bevy of emails...mostly threats.
Alot of "take that down NOW", alot of "what the hell happened?!"
Alot of "did you check with the Chain of Command?" I ignored and deleted the threats, abuse, attacks and bullying . I personally emailed and messaged anyone who wanted to know more right away. In a matter of hours , I had raised some money, but I raised more eyebrows than dollars.
I will never understand the threats, nor do I care. I will never understand the "C.O.C" comments. And I will most certainly, not understand why it was not being openly talked about. This man, our instructor , who was loved by many...needed us. ALL of us. felt like only a few of us cared.
How could this have possibly happened? How could NO ONE be talking about it other than shootem' up gunsites, and anti Systema people? What the hell was going on?
I didn't get it either. I was beyond enraged.
I managed to get on a plane to drive back with my boyfriend from Alabama straight to Dallas where we would see our instructor. On the plane, I sat next to a young man who was in the Army. He was scared of flying to the point of being almost in tears. He asked me to talk to him to keep him from panicking. So I told him the story of the shooting. By the end of the flight, he bet me $20 bucks he could match his army style pushups to my Systema knuckle pushups. I was wearing a dress. He lost the bet gave me the $20 and said it was for the fundraiser. I don't know how I did more than 5 pushups , because I never managed to do more than 5 in class. Later on , he donated another $100 online with a note..."thank you for making me totally forget that I was on a plane, and making me realize there are still people like you out there that care about humanity."

My boyfriend and I left immediately after his awards ceremony in Alabama and made virtually no stops. We were both emotionally exhausted, drained and worried. We hadn't heard much of anything at this point..and maybe that was good. As the fundraiser grew and grew, I was still upset that no formal or public comment had been made. As I sat impatiently by, I began frantically messaging the C.O.C. of the main group to DO something. ANYTHING.
They didn't. I was devastated. I was broken. Not for myself..but for all of us.
I pushed the fundraiser as hard as I could. I was not going to stop.
As we made our way through the hospital , I became physically ill.I could not even almost imagine what I was going to see.I kept telling myself, "he's's ok now"...but I was still scared.
No amount of Systema control could have prepared me for what I saw when I walked into his room.
As soon as I saw him, I broke down into tears. He weighed what looked to be 20-30 pounds less than he normally did. Only a few days had passed since the shooting and in my mind, I was not sure how this was even possible. He was shivering. He was pale, but he smiled and told me it would be ok and that he was ok. I managed to hug him and felt every bone in his back. He could barely lift his arms up because he had tubes and cords and plugs everywhere. Yet he was there, alive. As we surrounded him , he feigned from being exhausted to wanting to have some impromptu bedside training. We stood in the hallway and tried to navigate maneuvers with his colostomy bag, his IV, and his catheter. There are even photos. He still managed to almost land me on the ground. Almost.
His two beautiful children arrived a short time later and I can only describe my own feeling at the time.
The person who had done this, had not, as far as I knew, called to check on him regularly and he even continued to pontificate at his seminars. Not one word of truth came from this Gospel leader. Not to any of us anyway. And here was our instructor, with his beautiful children, barely able to hug them. There were his children, not wholly recognizing their father, and there we were.
I was in tears and walked away.I sat in a corner of the hospital staring at the elevator door opening and closing. My rage went from intense, to soft, to fury. It never stopped being rage. At some point , I tried to be compassionate, but I could not.I was angry.
We left the hospital, and our instructor, and went to eat. It was probably the first time I had eaten in a few days. I was increasingly angry.
When he finally came home ,we had filled his house with catheter and colostomy bag friendly pants, new linens and colostomy friendly foods. I tidied up his house and cleaned as much as I could. I moved furniture out of the way, and went shopping with a classmate to make sure we could fill his home with what he needed.
None of us got a phone call from the people that should have called. Not one, that I know of anyway.
The course of the days after his arrival home consisted of home health schedules(I think all of us did our rounds), check ins, and bag cleaning. Most of us learned the ins and outs of colostomy changing, how to keep his catheter clean and how to help keep him comfortable. The men who I had been training with for a while, now became the most maternal and nurturing of men. THIS was Systema.
At one point, the threats and emails that I continued to receive stuck with me. I walked into my instructors house one evening to hang out with him..and I became enraged. Again.
I looked at his two kids and told them to go for a walk with me. They did. Quite possibly one of the best walks ever.
I asked them how they were doing and they were seemingly unaffected. They were alot braver and stronger and more compassionate than the rest of us. One of them said it was kind of weird. I looked at both of them and said " but how many kids can say their Dad was shot by (fill in the blank) and lived? badass!" They both laughed at the fact that I used foul language and laughed at the reality of me confirming their father's super hero status.
It was then I realized the ONLY way I could get through this was with humor.
I walked back into the house and immediately started making completely inappropriate and random jokes.I was kinda known for the same thing in class and realized I had nothing to lose. The first one was about the "P" bag.
Once my former instructor got the reference..he laughed and was in pain simultaneously. His colostomy bag released air.We all started laughing. The ceremonial joke telling began, you could not be around us and not have a joke. In fact, there was even a contest and I think someone made a shirt.
It was all we could do.
To this day, I cannot train. Not in the gym I used to train in. It is too painful. I can barely look my former instructor in his face. I felt overwhelmed with guilt and anger. While he has taken a much higher road than I ever could, I am so incredibly at a loss , still, as to the lack of humanity and brotherhood after the shooting.
I think about it almost every day. Still. There are moments when I'm driving alone, in my car, and I try to remember what he looked like before the incident. There are moments of witnessing his miraculous recovery, that are just phenomenal. There are moments that I believed in this specific System and the men behind it , would do everything they possibly could to make sure he was taken care of. I will never forgive myself for not doing more and I will never forget the ones who did nothing .
The guy who accidentally shot my instructor? I have never heard from him. Not personally. He is continuing to have a successful, almost stupendous career at doing what he does best.
Thank God he missed.
This time.

(this article is strictly based on what my experience was. It is in no way , the views and thoughts of others...maybe. The thoughts,views and opinions are my own.Not anyone else's )
***update 9/22/14
Due to the numerous threats and backlash , I removed the article from the internets. While this article was written solely from my P.O.V., I could not believe the amount of positive messages I received,I was amazed that alot of people benefited from the story. I have since edited and reworded some of the terminology in the hopes that the article can still remain a positive piece in the eyes of whomever reads it. I decided to repost it despite what has happened , because I also want my "attackers" to know, I will not be bullied nor strong armed. If this article isn't for you, it isn't for you.