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  • Writer's pictureDawn Neufeld

It Was Only a Matter of Time

Bryn and I spent this past Sunday afternoon at the ballet. Cinderella. And it was magic. While we waited for the show to begin, I scrolled through social media to catch any tidbits before I had to power down my phone for a couple of hours. On Twitter, I saw that law enforcement were responding to a mass shooting incident in Jacksonville. And there was video. In the video (that was being live-streamed at the time of the shooting), two young men were sitting on a couch at a Madden NFL football video game competition. Right before gunshots rang out, a red laser beam moved around on one of the young men's chests. It took my breath away as Bryn asked what time the show was going to start. I retweeted the story. Then I posted the link on Facebook. As I switched my phone to silent I tried thinking about anyone we might still know in the Jacksonville area from Ryan's time with the Jaguars. Couldn't think of anyone off the top of my head. But one of my former TV co-hosts lives in Jacksonville now - I figured I'd check on him after the ballet.

When I finally checked my phone after the show, there were missed phone calls. And lots and lots of text messages from family. But I was driving so it took another half hour or so before I was able to read them. When I finally got to them, I went numb.

"Andrea just said one of the shooting victims in Jax is Corey's brother," I typed. Andrea is my younger sister and Corey is her son.

"Elijah," my older sister responded. Elijah is Corey's older brother. They grew up together.

Corey's dad Delano married Elijah's mom Erin. Here are a couple of pics from their wedding that everyone in my family attended except my younger sister (for obvious reasons - sorry sis).

The news was too much to bear. I rushed to Andrea's apartment and we tried to figure out whether or not she needed to get on a plane to Arizona (where Corey is in college) while we waited for updates. Delano, who was on his way to Florida from L.A., confirmed the news and said it wasn't looking good. Not long after our fears were confirmed. Elijah was one of the two victims who were killed in a mass shooting. There were nine other gunshot victims. The shooter was later confirmed to have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

When we got home, I turned on CNN like I usually do after one of these incidents and caught the tail end of a press conference. It was hard to watch. Let me explain how your perspective changes when you actually know one of the victims of a mass shooting. Before, I'd say the shooter's name. I'd say it over and over and over again. My mentality was one of acknowledgment - say the shooter's name so we know who/what type of person is committing these atrocities. We should know their motives. But then Elijah died. And as I watched law enforcement identify the shooter by name knowing that Elijah was gone, all I could think of was, "...but Elijah. What about Elijah? No, we should be saying his name." That moment changed me. And then I watched as law enforcement praised themselves on a job well-done responding to the shooting. While I'm sure they did, all I could think of was, "...but Elijah." Who cared if first responders were on scene two seconds or ten minutes after the shooting - Elijah was gone. It was not officially announced until the following day that Eli and one other well-known gamer, Taylor Robertson, were identified. However, the gaming community had all but acknowledged their identities the night before. Elijah Clayton. "TrueBoy." Age 22. Taylor Robertson. "Spotmeplzzz." Age 27. A husband and dad. Victims of the 234th mass shooting in the U.S. this year.

I'm going to fill you in on a little piece of this story you probably don't know, because I think it's important (don't be mad at me Delano and fam). Delano grew up hustling. When he and his brothers pulled up to my mom's or granny's, they were in luxury cars (I have pics somewhere of us flossin' across the top of a black Ferrari) wearing the nicest suits and clothes. When the ice cream truck came by, we knew who to ask for money. At times, the life caught up with them. And there were "debts paid to society." But something changed when Delano and Erin got married. He was raising his family and didn't want them living that life. They moved to a nice neighborhood. They sent their kids to private school. They did everything right and it wasn't enough to spare their kids this pain. It's unbearable.

It's been nearly a week since the shooting and we know more about the shooter now. He had an extensive and documented history of severe mental health issues. Yet he was still able to legally obtain the firearms he used to kill Eli and Taylor and destroy countless other lives. How the fuck do we keep letting that happen?

Columbine. Newtown. Charleston. San Bernardino. Dallas. Las Vegas. And now Jacksonville.

Who's next?

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