Las Vegas Mass Shooting Horror

I awoke today to the horrible news that another mass shooting had occurred in our country, this time in Las Vegas. The headline read “worst in US history since 1949.” My mind immediately began playing quik clips of all the horrors we have witnessed; the Pulse Night Club, the heartbreaking massacre of the children at Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, too many to even wrap my mind around. Never have Thomas Paine’s words rung more true, “these are the times that try men’s souls.”

This is not going to be an op-ed piece about gun control, a diatribe regarding our country’s severe mental health crisis or a political commentary. It is just meant to be a unifying gesture to comfort all of us who sit shocked and powerless, in a world that seems to be feeling more and more like a the set of a bad movie.

I was researching the worst mass shootings, (as if there could be a “best” list). For me, the one that stuck out was Columbine. Even though it was 18 years ago, I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in a bagel shop in Manhattan with my son and his father. We were very excited to be going to the Brazilian Consulate to get visas for a trip to see my family in Brazil. My 5 year old son and I were so excited with the anticipation of our upcoming adventure.

Behind the counter we were sitting at, enjoying our bagels, was a small, old school television. Suddenly the regular programming was interrupted for breaking news, and the details of Columbine began to unfold. I knew in that moment, that life, as we knew it had changed forever. I felt it in my bones. My only child, sitting next to me, would be going off to first grade in several months; something that was supposed to be an exciting milestone. At that moment, all I could think was “he won’t even be safe there.”

The dread that I felt in that moment dissipated, for I knew that I could not send my son off to school every day worrying that some random act of violence would touch his young life. To live in constant fear, is to not live at all. So I put it all in the back of my mind, taking note of the tragedies, but trying with all my faith to believe that this was not going to be an exponentially growing problem. As we all sadly know – I was wrong.

One mass shooting that did NOT make “the worst” list was the shooting in Charleston South Carolina, because “only”nine people were shot and killed there. The young man who murdered these people had sat with them prayed with them for an hour. With great purpose, he shot them one by one as they begged for their lives, reloading five times. He was not randomly attacking people, but like the Pulse shooter, he was full of hate. I just kept thinking, “how can you sit and pray with people, be embraced by them, and then just murder them?” So chillingly calculated.

Today, again, I am left, as we all are, dumbfounded with many questions running through my mind. “How can someone look down on a crowd of revelers, enjoying the most basic of joys; music, and shoot at them as though they were target practice in a game?” It is beyond heartbreaking. I really don’t know how much more our souls can take; we who are not even directly impacted by such violence. Imagine those who are? I still think of the first responders at Sandy Hook. How can they ever get those images of little children and the adults trying to protect them out of their heads? They can’t.

Tomorrow will come posturing on political issues such as gun control and Lord knows what else, but for today, we, as humans, are grieving. We need to do this and then find comfort. Look around and count your blessings. Hug your children, no matter their age, appreciate the people who love you. This is SO painful for all of us, watching this world that has turned into something no one can understand. Only you know what is right for you. If you need to talk to your kids about this, perhaps sit and pray as a family, or have a moment of silence.

This is my condelence letter to the world. I am sorry that things have devolved so greatly. I am so sorry that one cannot go out to have fun with their friends, or sit in a house of worship or movie theatre without the nagging thought that we all have targets on our back. I have no answers, no requests; just nothing, except the collective pain of all the victims weighing on my soul. I know I am not alone in this feeling, so I am reaching out in a feeble attempt to offer comfort where there is none. But know this, you are not alone, what hurts one of us hurts us all. I wish you peace.



© 2017 Charlene Viviano ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


Hello c-ptsd. Who the hell are YOU?

When I was three years old, the day after the last happy Christmas I ever remember, the world went black. It was bright and brisk and my father stood in his gray tweed winter coat, off to get groceries. I was the outcasted baby. “Daddy, they won’t let me play with the track set!!” His eyes twinkled. “Aw come on guys, let the little one play!” He gave me a snuggle and off he went to do my mother’s bidding. That was the last time I would ever see my father upright.

My older brother and sister continued playing with an incredibly cool racing car set; cutting edge for 1964. Why were there only 2 cars??? I went up to my parents room. My mother was not such an ally. Concentrating on her paperwork as I lamented the injustices that an almost four year old, youngest child must face, she basically ignored me. Suddenly, my brother, ashen faced, came running up the stairs and my mother was down the steps in a sprint. If words were exchanged, they eluded me, but even a three year old can understand urgency.

Downstairs, in our foyer, on a mustard plaid tufted couch, that I would kill to find on craigslist today, lay my sweet, crumpled father. I stood in the doorway with my sister as we watched my mother kneeling beside him, not quite sure what she was doing. I could hear my terrified 12 year old brother as he fumbled with a rotary phone, desperately trying to reach the operator to get an ambulance. I felt bad for my car hogging brother. “Is he going to die?” I whispered to my sister. The words left my lips, even though I had no idea what they meant.

My father’s relatives came; stoic stern figures, nothing like my always jolly, playful, daddy. My mother was whisked away in a white ambulance. Dusk had turned to night. It was as if my father took the glow of day with him, forever, and I was left with these odd, cold, people who had apparently hosted us 24 hours previously. Us three kids were in our rooms, sent to bed. In my crib, I heard hushed tones in the hall outside my room. It was dark, it was bad. I fell into a fitful sleep and never slept a dreamless peaceful night again.

Five months later, it was spring. I heard the mail slot clink and ran to pick up a pile of letters.. I brought them excitedly to my mother. I am not sure what was in that pile, perhaps a hospital bill, or a Social Security check, maybe nothing, but something made me ask “when is Daddy coming home?” My mother was shocked. I supposed she had told me already, that he died that night, the day after the best Christmas ever. If she did, I didn’t remember. Somehow, in some sort of brain glitch, for many years my mind believed that in that pile of papers lay the horrible truth that my father was gone forever.

It’s funny what kids think when they don’t know the truth about anything; trying to piece the world together from snippets of random information. Years later I found out we weren’t told till after the funeral that my father had had a stroke; not particularly fair for my 12 year old brother, and not particularly enlightened for my Dr. Spock reading mother.The word “closure” was not not in use yet, but I am reasonably certain that we didn’t get any. And so, that is basically how my life began.

Twenty years of therapy unearthed the notion that maybe, just maybe, this is when my horrific sleeping problems started. I can pretty safely say that in the middle of the 1960’s when I lost my dear sweet father so suddenly, who I would never truly know, my complex – ptsd began. But no such thing existed back then. If a mental “wound” develops before we know what it is – is it sort of like when a tree falls in the woods?

Hello C-ptsd – I wish I never met you.

PHOTO CREDIT: The Atlantic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Counseling