Am I safe?

This event was told to my wife by the grandmother in the story – it’s a true story and a little slice of American life.

On a hot, steamy, southern afternoon a neighbor of ours took her young granddaughter to a local photographer to have a portrait made. The child sat quietly next to her grandmother as she discussed with the photographer how she wanted the child’s portrait to be done. While showing an old photo to the photographer she explained “I want you to take a headshot of my granddaughter, in black and white, in her plaid shirt.” The new portrait was to match the old black and white photo she was holding which had been taken decades earlier of her children, all wearing plaid shirts. She wanted her granddaughter in a matching photo. Family traditions continued.

As the photographer arranged and set up equipment the young girl leaned in close to her grandmother and whispered “Is he going to shoot me in the head?” Startled, the grandmother looked down at her and said “No dear, he is going to take a picture of you, a photograph, no one is getting shot.”

Later, in the car ride home the little girl confided to her grandmother “I’m glad he didn’t shoot me in the head.”

Take a moment and think about how deeply fucked up that is.

Think about what “taking a head shot” used to mean – and what “taking a head shot” means now.

Think about how carefully that young girl listened to and parsed those words – and those words alarmed and worried her.

Think about how a young girl’s life could be so consumed, not with playing with her toys or running around the backyard but the daily, relentless, paralyzing fear of death from the barrel of a gun.

Our gun loving, violent behavior will be a permanent part of that girl’s life as she grows into a woman. As a teenager, as a young adult, as a grown woman she will never walk through a mall or go to a concert without wondering “could it be now, is he in the crowd now – am I safe?”

This is America where a gun can appear anywhere – at any time – even on a pleasant, summer day with her grandmother in a photography studio.

We have a culture of gun violence so pervasive, so complete our children forego dreams of a future and have replaced them with fantasies of staying alive – for one more day. The American fiction of freedom.


Image Credit: this composite image was created for Dew from an image of crosshairs found a free download at and the plaid skirted model borrowed from a promotional image/fair use and made blurred beyond recognition.

Trevor Stone Irvin

Trevor Stone Irvin

Illustrator and Designer living in the Candler Park area...At one time I worked at the Atlanta Constitution and then for CNN at the all seemed too much like real work so I went freelance...which my father defined as "being unemployed for a real long time".