I was not in school on May 20, 1999. I was – literally – on the other side of the world, in Kenya. But I knew something was wrong.
I have never been able to explain it, but I had a nightmare. I do not get nightmares. My sister has nightmares. But I sleep usually without dreaming, and when I do dream, they tend to be innocuous, random, and pleasant. But that night.
I dreamed that my classmates (I remember which ones, but it seems creepy to name them without their permission) were in the library with a gun and a bottle of vodka. They knew these were dangerous things. They were careful with them, but there they were.
I can remember the library perfectly, for it was not the school library, but Rockdale County’s very pretty Nancy Guinn Memorial, with pink brick and a beautiful awning over the entrance. Inside the windows and lights create a very airy, comfortable space. In my dream, it was daylight, but with deep dark shadows, elongated with unnaturally strong contrast.
In my dream, no adult came and took away the dangerous things. They went about blithely unaware.
In real life that morning, a young man was shooting up my high school, as seems to be common nineteen years later. Heritage High School, May 20, 1999.
In my dream, not much happened, no one was hurt. But it was clear that my classmates were in danger. The people I dreamed of were far from my closest friends. But they were important to me nonetheless, and something was wrong for them. The dream had no resolution, simply a lingering sense that people I cared for were not ok.
When I woke up, I shared with my friends the strange dream. Coincidentally, I called home that evening. I asked and my dad lied to me, told me that nothing was wrong, nothing going on. He thought there was no reason to worry me.
I learned about the shooting more than a week later, in line to board during my layover in London. The person in front of me knew some mutual friends and assumed I had heard of the shooting. He asked if I had known anyone who was hurt, and I fell apart. I’ve always appreciated the fact that he knew no deaths happened that morning.
No one died at Heritage High School on May 20, 1999. One girl was hit, but a very thick book reduced the bullets impact enough to save her life. I went back to school my senior year, and very little had changed. No metal detectors. In fact, the biggest news was about a syphilis epidemic which had ravaged the county a few years prior.
But I’ve always remembered that dream. That impossible bridge over 7,900+ miles from where the incident happened and my perhaps coincidental dream. If it was coincidence, well, that’s possible.
Sometimes, it feels like I never woke up from that dream.