“Living Unarmed” Transcript

Guest: Megan Doney

(Listen to the audio on the episode page.)

Betty Teng: Welcome to Mind of State, a podcast for both political junkies and armchair shrinks. I’m psychoanalyst and trauma therapist Betty Teng.

Jonathan Kopp: And I’m political communications strategist Jonathan Kopp. Join us as we welcome experts in politics and psychology to consider this, the state of our nation through the state of our minds and the mind of our state.

Jonathan Kopp: Hi, Betty.

Betty Teng: Hey, Jonathan.

Jonathan: So just about a month ago, we all remember vividly that the U.S. Capitol was stormed by a murderous seditionist white supremacist anti-Semitic mob. They were armed with guns and knives and bear spray and pipe bombs and nooses and all the rest. They came to fight, they were wearing their MAGA hats, waving Trump flags, carrying QAnon signs. And in the time since, Donald Trump was impeached, Joe Biden has been inaugurated, we have a new president, but we also have new members of Congress, including Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is fighting for her right to carry a concealed weapon onto the House floor. That’s where we are at this moment.

Betty: It’s really incredible, isn’t it?

Jonathan: We went from insurrection to impeachment to inauguration within the span of three weeks, and now we’re back having the same debates over gun control that we’ve been having for the past 40 or 50 years. But it’s gotten to the point where armed insurrectionists are carrying AR-15s into the halls of Congress and members of Congress are refusing to go through metal detectors because of their freedom to carry a gun.

Betty: And it really is remarkable, Jonathan, how guns are entering into spaces where negotiation, language, and collaboration are really the objective of these sites. And so, that just says something right there, what is happening nationally in a sort of symbolic way. The insistence on these brute weapons of force in spaces where we’re supposed to be talking and we’re supposed to be collaborating, we’re supposed to negotiate through language is really just, I don’t think it can be more stark than that.

Jonathan: Yeah. And when you combine the force and the intimidation that is present when guns are present with the, frankly, just irrationality of false flag conspiracies, that the shootings that we have witnessed, the shootings that we’ve experienced are somehow false flags by anti-gun activists looking to create justification to take away people’s guns. We are in a period where how does rational argue with irrational?

Betty: And I think, Jonathan, with all that you’re talking about, it’s a particularly great opportunity for us to talk to somebody who has been a survivor of a school shooting. She’s gone through it firsthand.

Jonathan: Yes, indeed. Megan Doney is a professor of English at New River Community College in Virginia where she and her students actually survived a school shooting in the spring of 2013. Since then, Megan has written and spoken extensively about that experience and most recently, her essay on this topic The Wolf and the Dog was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Thank you so much for joining us, Megan.

Megan Doney: Thank you so much for inviting me. This is an incredible honor. I really appreciate it.

Betty: So, Megan, just to orient us, you are a person who has survived a single shooter incident, and that is something that a lot of us would, it’s one of our worst nightmares. And this is hard, so we want to make sure that you’re contained, you know, I’m a trauma therapist, so this is what I do for folks who come to me, and to say you don’t have to say anything that you don’t want to. I know that you’ve been speaking and writing on this, but every conversation and every interface is different. And I also know that, you know, every conversation about this incident can have its impacts. So that I want to ground ourselves in that. But then also, given that we are sort of awash in too many of these incidences, can you tell us about yours and when it happened? And just to give us a sense of where you’re coming from and what you went through.

Megan: So I struggle with the pronouns. I don’t always know whether I should call it my shooting or the shooting, but, or our shooting, but my shooting happened on April 12th, 2013 at the mall site of the community college where I’m a professor in Virginia. And when I say the mall site, that just refers to, kind of, a satellite campus that is in, literally in, a shopping mall. So in addition to the campus that’s in that building, you know, there’s also a mall like there’s also, you know, at the time there was a food court and, you know, shops and everything. And so on the afternoon of April 12th, one of our students entered the building with a shotgun and opened fired and he shot a student and one of our staff members. And they both survived, thankfully, they were badly injured, but they both survived.

And I was in class with my students that afternoon and at about right around two o’clock, we heard the first gunshot and one of my students said, what was that and I initially thought that it was a car backfiring. And I walked across the room from the instructor console to the door to the classroom, and I opened it for a moment. And then I heard two more shots. And I knew, at that point, I did know what it was. And I thought to myself for just a second, should I close the door? Do I lock us in here? But this classroom, it was just adjacent to an emergency exit, and so I just opened the door wide and turned to my students and said get out. And they just, they were just gone. They were out the door, it happened, I know, if as a trauma therapist, you understand the way that time sort of stops making sense, it stops working.

Betty: Yes.

Megan: And so it seemed like it just happened so quickly. And they left all of, many of them left all of their stuff. You know, they were just over the tables and out the door and some of them, you know, jumped in their cars and just peeled off. Some of them were just standing out there. And I thought for sure that, I was baffled because what, as we were standing out there, I could still hear the gunfire from inside and I thought, why aren’t, why isn’t everyone else coming out? Like, why are we the only ones out here? And I thought, is he, you know, is he killing everyone? Did I make a mistake? I thought for a moment that maybe I had completely misread this and just traumatized my own students for no reason. And I just, I remember so clearly just standing there kind of in complete bafflement, just not understanding what was really happening until the sirens started and then, again, that was another confirmation that this is real.

And so some of my students and I, you know, we hid behind cars in the parking lot for a little while and there were some women who kind of herded us into their car and they let me use their cell phone because I didn’t have anything on me. I had left, all of my stuff was in the building. At this moment, you know it just seemed, I just couldn’t. One of my students asked me were you, later, years later, said were you scared? And I said I wasn’t scared until after. I wasn’t then. I was frightened afterwards. And it felt like almost immediately the media was there. There were reporters where we’re still standing out in the parking lot and there were reporters coming up and, you know, sticking their microphones in my face and saying tell us what just happened. And I was like get the, get away. Who are you? What?

Betty: Right.

Megan: And finally, you know, the injured women were taken by healthcare, health, emergency health personnel. The shooter was subdued by an off duty, an unarmed off duty security officer who just shouted at him to put the gun down. And he did. And he was arrested. And then people did start coming out of the building. And I was able to, you know, I could see and hug some of my other students who were still in there, colleagues. And, you know, I remember giving a statement to the police at the end of the day, they wanted witness statements and I remember it was a red ballpoint pen, I remember that very clearly, and not really being able to say very much. And I recall hearing them talk about me like she’s in shock, you need to get her something. And thinking oh they’re talking about me, aren’t they?

Betty: Mm hmm. Right

Megan: All right. And so the shooter was, you know, arrested and, you know, a year later, I’m skipping over, I guess, a lot of the legal, the trial information. But he was sentenced eventually to 38 years in prison. And so he was, I believe, 19 at the time.

Betty: And so, I know you’ve written about it, you’ve spoken about it. But each time, how is it to tell it?

Megan: My heart’s pounding and my hands are freezing.

Betty: You know, I want to make sure that we can, you know, you’re okay to to keep going because this is the impact of it.

Megan: Yes. This is very familiar. These, the physical sensations, are. I expected this. So it’s not, that’s not a problem.

Betty: Because you’d mentioned, like, the media showed up and they were sticking the microphones in your faces and we see so much of that on national media. We don’t see that what’s going on internally, the riot and what you’re talking about is the disorientation.

Megan: Yes.

Betty: Like the, even, by the way, you’re recounting this and this happened 2013 so it’s almost eight years ago in April. That day was, as you said, you know, any other day and then it became a significant day. And so how has it been since, you know, how did you, how did it change you?

Megan: Well, I’m a very good student so my way of trying to cope, I think, with most things is to read and one of the worst parts of the aftermath was being failed by literature. And that was actually devastating. I had, as, I’m a professor, I have access to every academic database that you can think of. And I searched for hours for a scholarly article about what happens to professors who survive a school shooting or witness a school shooting. And just for additional context, at the time, I lived in Blacksburg, Virginia, which is where Virginia Tech is. So this was, this is, my shooting was the second school shooting in this county in a five mile radius.

So one might think that there would be a lot of literature about educators who had been through this and there was nothing. There was, I found a Ph.D. dissertation from Finland and then one dissertation from this country. And there was no scholarly research other than those about the impact on professors. I found all kinds of stuff about students, how to support students, sort of organizational culture, safety measures and all that. But I needed someone to say, here’s what’s going to happen to you. This is what it’s going to be like three months out, six months out, a year. This is the percentage of teachers who are still able to go back to the classroom. Yes, you are normal. I really needed someone to say what you’re feeling is normal and you are going to be alright. And when I didn’t find that, I thought oh maybe I’m not going to be alright.

Betty: Mhmm.

Megan: And I had, you know, you can see the bookshelves behind me, I mean, I have books about travel, divorce, loss of a child, loss of a sibling, loss of a pet. I had memoirs about everything that you could think of. And there were no memoirs about an educator surviving a school shooting. So I thought oh I guess that’s what I have to do. I guess that’s the book that I have, that I’m going to have to write, because I really just needed, I needed to write my way out of this and to say, you are going to, you will live. You will be able to go back to the classroom. You will be able to find that joy again with your students. And you’re going to make it through this.

Jonathan: I’m struck by what you’re saying, that, yes, you are normal. And it’s, while that’s comforting, it’s also quite disturbing that being a survivor of a school shooting is somehow a new normal, that this is an occurrence that we have learned to live with through the first person experiences of people like yourself and the proliferation, both within your county and just across the country, from Columbine to Sandy Hook and Parkland and yours and so many.

Betty: And a myriad of other one in between.

Megan: Yeah.

Jonathan: So you’ve come out the other side. And are you a changed person?

Megan: Yes. I don’t, yes.

Jonathan: I mean, you go from being Megan who, you know, is picking up the groceries and prepping for the class and interacting with her family and her neighbors and living her life to Megan who has survived a school shooting. And now you’re a changed person. Can you talk about how your own perception of yourself and your place in the world has changed?

Megan: Sure. In one of the essays of, in my essay in creative nonfiction that was just, that came out in the fall, one of the things that I mentioned in there is this, a new awareness of doors. And so there’s a, one of the ways that architecture rearranges itself is that now I’m looking, I don’t, I never paid attention to where the door was and now I’m looking for something like that. I can think of, you know, a moment in which I saw a teenager at the library with his hands in the pockets of his hoodie. And I mean, I just immediately thought, oh I know what’s in the pockets of his, I know what that is. And of course, he’s just got mittens in there. But I don’t, whenever I hear a siren now, I assume that it’s a school shooting, like especially in April, because April was the month of Virginia Tech, my shooting, Columbine, it’s, I just assumed that if there’s a siren in April, it must be a school shooting. So, and I have in my mind, I’ve been working over a poem actually about this that, you know, all other emergencies are canceled in April. There’s no other reason for a siren. It can only be a school shooting.

So those are sort of the terrible ways that things are different now. The wonderful ways are that I know that that day made me so much less afraid of life. I don’t know that I would have had the courage to do so, so many things, not least of which is marry again. You know, I was going through a divorce when the shooting happened and, you know, I don’t know that I would have been brave enough, you know, it really, it’s a brave thing to be able to say yes to love. And I, my husband is the most, you know, he has given me so much courage and in every way that he has said yes to me, he’s made it possible for me to say yes to living. To say yes to just, yeah, to not being scared, because that Friday was a beautiful April morning. It seemed like a day, it seemed like a Friday. My dad was coming down to visit me that weekend. I knew that I was, he was going to probably be at my house when, you know, when I got home and I ended up that day writing a witness statement in bright red ink.

And so, you know, when I, once I learned that that was how the day could go, it’s hard to be afraid of things. And I used to be someone who was a terrible hypochondriac, you know, like if I had a headache, it had to be, you know, a brain aneurysm. I mean, it just, like, there was no, I would immediately, I was really a catastrophizing thinker. That kind of cured that in a powerful way.

Betty: Yeah. It sounds like you met an extreme and it really, on the adaptive or positive end of things, it really adjusted all of your fears in an organizational manner and gave you something even as it took things away and this aspect of normalcy. And I know you probably have in your studious student of trauma, as you are now, not by choice, but the ways in which you activated your brain to ground yourself in all of this is that’s neuroscience because the brain isn’t going to wait around to associate. It’s like April siren go, you know, danger. And the thing to key off of what you said, Jonathan, about normalcy and how the dangerous is now normal in our nation, and the thing that you’re pointing out, Megan, about that there’s no literature on educators and their survivor status in these shooter incidences speaks to a sort of obscuring of one part, one facet of this, a very key facet. And I think hearing you talk about it and you said I was going to write, I’m going to write my way out of this. And so that’s your voice and you’re using your voice. And it feels like the personal has become political in your writings. So what’s that been like to kind of move into using your voice in this way and seeing other things happen to other people in school settings, to other teachers, to, you know, people in the Capitol just recently. So how does that impact you given that you’re one of the people who has actually been in their shoes?

Megan: It’s shattering to see it happen at other schools. I wrote an essay that came out last March called A Most Beautiful Country in Ruins and I had lost my dog, this incredible, just incredible creature that grounded me through my own shooting. She died February 3rd, 2018 and on February 14th was the Parkland massacre. And that was the first school shooting since mine that I had had to live through without her. And it was awful. I heard it on the radio coming home from work. I heard the news reports and I had to pull over because I just, I thought, I know how this is going to feel, I can picture the scene in the parking lot, you know, it’s, and I think that that’s one of the things that is particularly awful for anyone who has been wounded by gun violence. And I’m using the word wounded to mean both metaphorical and physical–

Betty: Of course.

Megan: –physical injuries that you, it never, I don’t think you ever get a break because it happens over and over and over again like there is no, it feels for me, it feels like there’s just no respite and that, sometimes people have have asked, you know, well why are you doing this? Why are you writing this? Why do you, you know, why are you engaging in activism? And the only reason is because I have written a document called Post Shooting Lesson Plans and I don’t want anyone to ever have to write that document again. Full stop. No teacher should have to have a word document called Post Shooting Lesson Plans. And I can’t make it any clearer than that. There’s nothing, you know, there’s nothing noble in this. It’s just, I don’t want anyone to do that. It’s terrible. It’s terrible. And–

Betty: And it sounds like you’re making sense out of nonsense, like because post shooting lesson plans, you bring that up and it’s like a symbol, it’s absurdist to have lesson plans, which are these organized modes of pedagogy and to transmit knowledge and thinking, and then it’s post shooting. It just sort of makes it completely upside down.

Megan: Especially, you know, probably if you have, if there are educators listening to this, you know, they may have been taught to organize their lesson plans with the acronym SWBAT, Your Students Will Be Able To, and that’s how you plan. So I just called it my SWBATs, like, by the end of the day, they will be able to do this. And so what is that on the day that you come back after the shooting? They will know that they don’t have to talk to the media if they don’t want to. They’ll know that they can take their grades where they are and if, and just be done with the rest of the semester if they want. They’ll know that those random people wandering around are counselors from, you know, the county. It’s lunacy, it’s, that that document even has to exist.

Jonathan: Megan, how much of the preplanning, I mean, kids go through active shooter drills, all of the plans, but then, you know, the famous Mike Tyson quote that, you know, everyone’s got a plan until they’re punched in the face. How much planning matters when you’re in the moment and rationality and the ability to think and reason goes out the window?

Megan: Hmm. I don’t know whether my students, because this was 2013, I don’t know whether my students then had grown up having active shooter drills every which way. I’m not sure that they did actually. I certainly had never had one. And, you know, I don’t know what it, I’m not, I can’t know what training would have done for me. I don’t know if you heard an episode of This American Life from a few years ago in which they interviewed a number of teachers from Marjory Stoneman Douglas who talked about the training that they went through. And on the day of the massacre, they still did something different, you know, they were told to close your classroom door and lock it. And then they had kids coming up to the door and begging to be let in. They’re not going to say no. Of course, they opened the door and let those kids.

And so, you know, my husband is, you know, was a military officer and his phrase is always, you know, people who make claims about what they would do is, he calls it, the bravery of being out of range. And that if you’ve never been in the fog of war, you don’t have any idea what you’re going to do. You don’t have any idea how you’ll react. And if, I mean, if someone had said to me at eight o’clock that morning, what would you do if, you know, someone opened fire at your school? I don’t have, I have, I can’t imagine what I would have said. It’s just that in that moment, I think that, you know, maybe we have an idea about what fear feels like, but I think for me, it was, there was this whatever the fear was, it was this incredibly pure, cold, utterly rational urge that said, just do what I tell you, and that is get out right now. That’s it.

Jonathan: I want to try to shift from your personal experience to the political dimension. And I guess that’s my role here at Mind of State. And I’ll tell you, Megan, I so appreciate you being on this show. I’ve been a gun control activist since I was 15 years old in 1981. I’ll date myself. But it was when Jim Brady was permanently disabled, right, from the gunshot wound during the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan. Back then, our focus was on handguns. And now, 40 years later, the weapons are more lethal, more numerous, more available. The politics have shifted so dramatically in ways that I could not have possibly imagined.

Megan: Yes.

Jonathan: You’ve been out on the front lines of advocacy from a personal experience and you’ve turned political. We have David Hogg calling on the Biden administration to appoint a gun safety czar, a similar approach to what he’s taken on climate. Are you more optimistic? Less optimistic? We’ve been, it seems like there have been moments and we’ve been let down time and time again, but yet the vast majority of the American public supports common sense gun reform.

Megan: Right. They do.

Jonathan: What do you see and what are you feeling?

Megan: I think that there is reason to be hopeful and that a lot of changes happen on the local level, they happen on the small scale. And because of that, since they’re not on national radar, I think it’s easy for some people to feel despairing and to say oh well Sandy, if Sandy Hook didn’t change everything, then, you know. And absolutely the lack of national response after that is unforgivable. However, there are states that have made incredible changes in gun regulation and Virginia, you know, is one of them. Lucy McBath, whose son, Jordan, was killed at a gas station, she’s in Congress, you know, Lucy, she’s representing, you know, a district in Georgia in Congress. So, those changes are happening. They are happening. And I think that, you know, by having hard conversations with one another, there can, I do think that there can be change. But I do think that the conversations are incredibly difficult and that there are many people who are resistant to having them. And I think that policies are one thing, but that we as Americans need to be having far more difficult conversations about what it means to be a man, what it means to be safe, what it means to be free. And those are not questions that are going to be answered with a law.

Betty: Say more about that, Megan, what it is to be a man, what it is to be safe, and what it is to be free with respect to gun control.

Megan: School gun violence in particular is almost exclusively perpetrated by men. And I get very frustrated when I read reports of school shootings in the news and they talk about, you know, the shooter or the perpetrator or something like that, or people in general. It’s not people. It’s a boy or it’s a man. I’m sorry to be, you know, to be blunt about that, but the, you know, the research bears that out. I mean, we are talking something like 99% of the people who do this are male. And I, there are others in this country who want to blame this on medication, video games, the demise of the nuclear family, any other thing that you want to talk about. However, girls and women also take psychiatric medication, they also play video games, they also have the same access to firearms, they also watch the same movies, they also grow up in the same family structures and they do not take AR-15s to school and kill everyone. They don’t.

Betty: Right.

Megan: And women are probably, I think, more likely to take out their agony on themselves. They engage in self harming behaviors and men and boys take it out on other people. So from my perspective, that is a conversation that men need to have among themselves and why boys and men decide that an appropriate way of exercising their need for control is to murder other people. And many school shootings as well have an element of gender retribution in them, that the, and we know this because the shooters leave behind artifacts that say this is why I’m doing it. This woman wouldn’t have sex with me. I, again, I get very, I have no patience with people who talk about, well, it’s because there are all these gun free zones, there was no one else there to shoot them. Not a single shooter, to my knowledge, granted, but not a single one has said I picked this place because it was a gun free zone. They said I picked this place because this woman wouldn’t sleep with me, they wouldn’t pay attention to me and now I’m going to make them all look. That’s why. And culturally, we’re really, you know, I’m not sure why people are so resistant to listening to, like, the people. The people who perpetrate this tell us why they do it. So, I mean, maybe that’s what we ought to listen to.

Jonathan: You’re absolutely right, of course. But now post January 6th, right, with the insurrection in the Capitol–

Betty: Which was predominantly male.

Jonathan: Absolutely.

Megan: Yes.

Jonathan: Stormed by, you know, murderous, seditionist, white supremacist mostly men, armed. But yet the debate has now shifted to a woman, Marjorie Taylor Greene, who wants to carry a concealed weapon into the Congress. And she is now one of the leading voices in this debate over gun control and freedom is the word that she invokes. And yet, Lucy McBath, also from Georgia, is on the other side of this debate. And so I wonder how gender is going to impact the debate in the present moment.

Megan: I do, too. And, you know, there are a lot of women who have, you know, bought into this idea that guns are protective. But again, the evidence is overwhelming that a gun in the home endangers women by factors of hundreds, that, you know, you are much more likely to be shot by your partner with that gun. It does not keep women safe. And again, I think that, you know, we have to have some much more challenging conversations about what it, what safety really means, because is it safety from something? Or freedom, I do an exercise with my students sometimes where we talk about the phrase, the word, freedom and you follow, you can follow it with freedom from, freedom to, freedom of. And we try to fill in a lot of those blanks and think and see what are we talking about, freedom of speech, freedom to associate or something. And I want them to kind of unpack what sort of values and beliefs are embedded in the way in which we complete that phrase. But there has to be a freedom from stochastic terrorism–

Betty: Right.

Megan: –in our, in schools, in the movie theater, at the concert, at church. I mean, what public venue hasn’t been the scene of a mass shooting so far? I’m not sure that I could name one. I just think that those questions about, you know, what it truly means to be safe are, again, much more difficult and much more challenging than hammering out, you know, legislation. Not that I’ve ever hammered out legislation.

Jonathan: No, it’s, I mean, look, writing policy is certainly hard, but in a world where the politics are fraught with emotion and a lot of irrationality, it’s that much more difficult. And it’s, I’m struck by listening to you that you are so rational and thoughtful and evidence-based and nuanced. And I wonder how proponents of gun reform can possibly engage when the opposition that is defending the Second Amendment is being fueled by false flag conspiracies, crazy theories, lack of logic, lack of evidence, and an unwillingness to even engage in the consideration of data and evidence. What’s your experience been when you’re coming from the rational and confronting the irrational?

Megan: I, honestly, I don’t feel like I can do that anymore. Like, I can’t, as you said, I don’t, I’m not sure what the point is in engaging. And earlier in my journey, I suppose, through, you know, the activism world, I went to some gun shows and I brought my now husband with me. And because I thought well, okay, like, go and, you know, if you’re going to be, if you’re going to work in this, if you’re going to have an activist role, you should know what happens at a gun show. You should be able to say what you, you know, you should have firsthand experience with seeing things. And, you know, what we see are people in the parking lot selling guns out of the back of a truck. We see vendors in that gun show selling Nazi memorabilia and swastika flags. And, you know, I see, you know, see people, you know, there are private sellers, even at gun shows, who will sell an AR-15 for cash. And I said, you know, so do you mean to say that if I write you a check for $1,700 right now, I could walk out with this? Yeah! And under the law, that’s, I’m a responsible gun owner.

Jonathan: Right, a loophole, right. You could drive a truck through the loophole.

Megan: Right. Because I bought that legally. And you know, it is very difficult to, and painful, and it’s just there’s, I don’t see any point in it anymore to really try to have a conversation with someone who says to me well you should have had a gun that day or, you know, well if you get raped, that’s your own fault because you weren’t carrying. Like, I don’t, I can’t do that. And so I just think that the best thing for me personally is just to be as good of an advocate, you know, as I can for the things that we do know make a difference, like lock your guns up, like keep them away from kids, keep them away from children. You know, that background checks work, emergency risk protection orders work. You know, these are not things that take away anything from anyone.

Jonathan: That’s right. And I think, look, the progress is being made. If we, even if we have to measure in glacial terms, the NRA is in retreat. They’re moving from New York to Texas. And as we see, to your point, that these Second Amendment activists are also wearing swastikas and carrying nooses and wearing sweatshirts with anti-Semitic Holocaust denial. The sides are showing pretty clearly where they are and who they are. And hopefully we are seeing progress, too late, not enough, but hopefully we’re getting there because of the bravery of people like yourself who are sharing the experiences they’ve had.

Betty: Yeah. And Megan, what you speak on, which Jonathan rightly illuminated, is that you speak from a position of experience and common sense of which a lot of is in short supply right now. As you move forward through this journey, this transformation, as you’ve called it, where are you at now and, you know, where are you going to take this if you can even say?

Megan: Well, you know, I continue to, you know, as an activist, I guess I continue to show up when I can. I’m not affiliated with any particular group or organization right now. But, you know, I certainly speak up and show up at, you know, meetings when something related to gun violence prevention is on the floor. But really, I think right now, the, what I have been working on the most is my book that I have. I’ve been working on this essay collection about, you know, life after the shooting. And most of the essays, really all, I think, try to interrogate this question of safety and what it means to live knowing that nowhere is safe. So the tentative, you know, the working title of the collection is Unarmed. And I think I see that as having, you know, multiple meanings that, you know, I choose to live unarmed. Like, I don’t carry a gun. I don’t have one in my home. I can’t think of a situation that’s going to change my decision to do that. But I think I also want to live unarmed, meaning that I want to say yes to what might happen. I don’t want that day to control every decision that I make from now on and I want to be open and I want to be vulnerable and I want to love and be hurt and to accept that what it, just whatever happens, that, you know, I know now that there’s no such thing, really, as, that safety is as an illusion. And so you might, so why not walk gratefully into whatever is ahead of you?

Betty: Spoken like a true survivor. Megan, thank you so much for speaking with us and sharing your insights. They are invaluable.

Megan: Thank you so much for having me. It was a great honor to be here.

Betty: Thanks for joining us on this episode of Mind of State. If you liked this episode, you’ll find plenty more on Apple podcasts or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

Jonathan: You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at Mind of State Pod. Our website is MindofState.com.

Betty: Mind of State is produced by Alletta Cooper and Jenny Woodward. Special thanks to our co-founder, Thomas Singer. I’m Betty Teng.

Jonathan: And I’m Jonathan Kopp. Join us next time on Mind of State.