Two years ago, Saanich woman Brie Jacobson and her best friend were in the middle of a concert at the Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas.
It is also when Jacobson said a part of her died. She and her friend watched dozens of people get shot right in front of their eyes as one of the largest mass shootings in modern U.S. history unfolded before them. Fifty-eight people died and over 400 were wounded.
“That night was hell,” Jacobson wrote in a letter this week.
Plenty has changed in two years. Unfortunately, a lot hasn't. Since 2017, there have been 999 mass shootings and 41,694 people have died in the United States. We must do better. Our lives depend on it. #1October #RT91 #EndGunViolence #GunReformNow pic.twitter.com/Fd4ePsQsxI
— Brie Jacobson (@briejac) October 1, 2019
After the events, Jacobson went from being a full-time student to going to a full-time therapy patient, faced with questions like “how did this happen” and “how could this man have access to those weapons and ammunition?”
After graduating with a communications degree from Royal Roads University shortly after the shooting, the Saanich resident has taken to writing and using her words to fuel activism.
“As Canadians we’re lucky we get to exist in a world without fear of gun violence versus our American neighbours who have to live in fear that it could happen again,” Jacobson said. “It’s foolish to say there’s nothing to do to prevent (gun violence)…no gun no problem.”
For Jacobson, turning to activism was a natural fit. She said it’s something she’s been drawn to since she was young, always wanting to find solutions to try and make something better. Now, she’s hoping she can start and maintain conversations about gun violence and gun laws, holding those in power to account.
“With an election coming up in Canada and the US, we need to remember that we’re hiring people to do a job and if they didn’t do their job properly in any other scenario they’d be fired,” Jacobson said.
While many people have questioned why Jacobson is getting involved U.S. issues, Jacobson argues that her horrific experience brings her into the debate.
“I was stripped of my innocence…other Canadians died,” she said. “If you impede on our safety when we’re a guest in your country, you’ve revoked the right to say we’re not included in the conversation…if you see that your neighbour’s house is on fire you’re not just going to ignore it.”
Although she isn’t completely healed, and said she never really will be, Jacobson has come a long way since the shooting and talks about it with others online, on podcasts and in speeches whenever she can. She has started writing a book as well which has helped her put her thoughts on paper and feel some catharsis.
Jacobson said she remembers everything from that concert in vivid detail – from the utter chaos of widespread panic to the chilling sound of bones shattering when struck by a bullet. She hopes to write all of it down so those who do read her book can get a better understanding of what being in a mass shooting feels like.
In the end, she hopes something good comes from her book, and that those who are kind enough to read it will feel some empathy for those who have experienced gun violence.
“Unless you can understand the horror, it’s hard to advocate with the necessary urgency for prevention,” Jacobson writes in her letter. “Until you’re touched by trauma you can’t understand it but, you can read it…experiencing trauma should not be a barrier of entry into empathy and action.”