Note: Recently, the rapper Eminem released his "Darkness” video which specifically addressed the May 18, 2018 Santa Fe High School mass shooting. The video to this song has been played over 16 million times in the four days it has been on You Tube. "Darkness" is the first song released from Eminem's "Music to Be Murdered By" album.
(WVPI guest blogger Scot Rice and his wife Flo, recovering from near-fatal injuries sustained 5/18/18 while at work).
By: Scot Rice, Santa Fe, Texas.
On the morning of May 18, 2018, I received a phone call from my wife Flo telling me the unthinkable: She had been shot at the school where she worked as a substitute teacher.
In a matter of seconds, I grabbed our daughter and my gun. I didn't know what to expect. We jumped in the car and I drove as fast as I could to the high school. Only what I found was no longer a school, but a war zone.
I was finally able to locate Flo. She was laying motionless just outside an entrance to the school with her colleague substitute teacher Ann Perkins laying a few feet away.
Ann, unfortunately, didn't make it.
(Ann Perkins was one of the 10 innocents who were murdered on 5/18/18 and Scot's wife Flo was one of 13 who were wounded.)
Flo laid on the ground in blood soaked clothes while officers standing next to her engaged with the shooter. I later learned the confessed 17-year-old student/mass shooter had pumped six bullets into Flo's body. More bullets were flying out the windows in my direction. My adrenaline was through the roof.
All this transpired in real time. It was real life, not a video game or a re-enactment as Eminem portrayed in "Darkness."
With the help of the heroic School Resource Officer Johnny Banda we got Flo into my car and took off. As I sped toward the hospital, ambulances and law enforcement raced in the opposite direction. The whole time, the three of us prayed Flo would survive the ride.
Flo's leg was broken in two and was also twisted and mangled. Thanks to the quick action of the University of Texas hospital staff and Officer Banda, Flo survived. But her life and that of our family and many other families will never be the same.
(May 2018: As Flo recovered in the hospital, Scot attended Texas Governor Greg Abbott's safety roundtable. A commendation was presented to School Resource Officer Johnny Banda, who Scot credits with helping to save Flo's life.)
Three Reasons Why "Darkness" is Dangerous.
I feel the “Darkness” video is in poor taste at the least, potentially dangerous at worst for the following reasons:
First: It serves as a trigger mechanism for Flo, myself and others that have experienced mass shootings. It triggers PTSD and severe anxiety, causing victims to relive the nightmare all over again.
Second: Eminem's point-of-view is not that of law-abiding citizens (not victims) who were attending a concert, like the Route 91 concertgoers were on October 1, 2017, or a school like Flo, her colleagues and students of Santa Fe High School were on May 18, 2018. In his video, Eminem assumes the perspective of a cowardly shooter who sprayed bullets on unsuspecting people.
I find this to be extremely distributing.
(Fall of 2018: Flo, on the long road to recovery from her injuries, together with Scot attended a live senatorial debate).
Telling a shooter's story is exactly what they want. Mass shooters dream about achieving notoriety not by being famous but rather by being infamous. They get plenty of press coverage already. None of these killers deserve any more publicity than they have already gotten.
Additionally, relating the story from the crazed killer's vantage point with a semi-automatic rifle rapid fired out of a hotel window, simulating the mass murder at the Route 91 concert is irresponsible and insensitive.
Can you imagine what the concertgoes who lived through the horror in Vegas are going through now, having the images of what the killer was doing reenacted by Eminem's while they were running for their lives?
Third: What is most alarming is that the video plays like a live-action sniper video game.
Many of the modern day school shooters played violent video games: Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland, Redlakes High, Sparks Middle, Bethel High, Santa Fe and now the 11-year-old January 10, 2020 Mexico school shooter. They loved violent sniper type video games in particular. Some of the most notorious like the Columbine and Sandy Hook killers played them obsessively.
These "games" enable future school shooters to practice and simulate the horrendous act they would one day commit. Only time will tell what the impact of watching Eminem pretending to be an active shooter and walking away may have on the next impressionable kid without expressing the horrible aftermath and high price of school shootings to human life.
(School Resources Officer John Barnes and Flo Rice meet for the first time, both having been shot at Santa Fe High School).
The fact that Enimem shows himself getting up and walking away after committing suicide similar to a video game is the worst message of the entire "Darkness" video. It follows the script of school shooter games like one which allows the player to choose to be one of the two Columbine killers causing chaos during the rampage and beyond, into the afterlife.
In the real world, death is final. You don't get a second chance. You don't get to push the reset button.
Eminem's misleading message could give the wrong idea to future wanna-be killers who are sitting in their mom's basement right now planning the next mass killing (where they want to outdo the last one with the highest body count). This is not acceptable to me.
Using School and Workplace Shootings For Financial Gain.
Eminem stands to make a great deal of money from his video and music focusing on the wounding and deaths of innocent people. Meantime, survivors and family members of those who were killed may suffer from extreme PTSD and anxiety and may even be suffering financially.
A mass school shooting like Santa Fe should be off limits for use in seeking financial gain and to further careers. Songs like "Darkness" should not be marketed and sold as "music to be murdered by" as Eminem has done.
School shootings compromise the safety of innocent children and teachers alike, like my wife Flo, who provide students with the best possible education and prepare them for the adult world.
(Flo at the Texas state capitol advocating on behalf of legislative initiatives to help make working conditions for teachers safer in this the 21st year of the modern active school shooter era).
Eminem had a tremendous opportunity to do something beneficial in "Darkness." He could have used his fame to promote possible solutions to what is the continuing American tragedy: “The modern day active shooter era." In my and Flo’s opinion, Eminem blew it.
A Call to Action to Help Prevent the Next One.
Another school shooting...this time in Santa Fe,Texas.
That's what is stated in the "Darkness" video as archival news footage documenting the horrors of May 18, 2018 is splashed across the screen.
Since that day, Flo and I have spent the last 20 months of our lives committed to doing something positive to address and hopefully put a stop to these preventable tragedies:
We have lobbied for change. We have testified in our state legislature. We have met with our governor, congressmen and senators. We have spoken at school board meetings, the Texas School Safety Center and the Texas Education Agency. We have spoken with law enforcement.
We have conferred with other survivors. We have spoken with safety experts and have researched past school shootings to learn what can be done to turn things around in this country. We have granted interviews to the media to spread our message and we all want the same thing.
We don't want "another school shooting." This can only be accomplished if all Americans work together toward positive change.
(Officer Banda and Scot Rice)
Eminem: I invite you to join us as well.
Flo and I would be willing to speak with you anytime. Let's stop the next school shooting before it happens.
Editor's Note: The heroic teacher Flo Rice was shot six times leading students to safety outside Santa Fe High School as an active shooter was on the loose inside the building.
She is a survivor of "another school shooting" as is her husband, Scot. Scot and Flo were on the front line May 18, 2018 to a school shooting and have been on the front line to prevent the next school shooting ever since.
I asked them to provide their recommendations based on their research that might help make schools safer for children to learn and teachers to teach. Here's what they said:
1. All teachers, including substitutes, and staff should have an application on their phones to use as a panic alarm that locates them and sends help immediately without the fire drill going on.
2. Install trained personnel in our schools with a weapon and a K-9 trained dog. Dogs can sniff out weapons as well as black powder and bombs and they can take down a shooter much quicker than a human can.
3. Enact legislation such as the "Justice for Victims of School Safety Act" which was introduced into the United States Congress by Representative Randy Weber of Texas and would make school shootings and attempted school shootings federal offenses.