How I Helped My Son Through the Virginia Shootings

'People were hurt, but we know this evil could have been far worse,' I told him — here's what happened next

by Mary Catherine Connor | Updated 16 Jun 2017 at 10:17 AM

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On the morning of the brutal shootings that targeted Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana as well as others on a baseball field in Virginia, my special-needs millennial son woke me up in a state of high anxiety and distress that — given his multiple disabilities — literally put his life at risk.

His challenges include PTSD, OCD, Asperger’s syndrome and severe allergies that can bring on a deadly asthma attack. We call it “the perfect storm” for disaster because, despite all the appropriate medications at the ready (including a double-pack Epi-Pen), there have been occasions when nothing works and there’s been no time to get him to the hospital from where we live in rural Arizona.

Make no mistake. This conservative young man, who is pro-President Donald J. Trump and Roman Catholic, is no snowflake. He's rock-solid tough. He's been through the ringer in his short lifetime.

My son has taken brutal situations and prevailed time and again, no matter the odds. He was bullied and beaten up in college because his mere presence as "differently abled" offered non-disabled kids the opportunity to abuse him just for "fun." But he's a big guy and fought them off while remaining at the top of his class academically. Still, it's not being attacked personally that puts him at risk for life or death; it's a unique conflux that I've encountered with many multi-disabled kids.

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For my own son, it all began with 9/11, when America was attacked in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. At the time, we were visiting my parents in Tenafly, New Jersey, from our home in the Southwest. Watching the footage on TV, my son almost died from an asthma attack. It was not brought on as usual by a bee sting, pesticide spray, or other allergen, but by something darkly interior about which I knew nothing before.

I brought him to every specialist I could to find out how to deal with the problem, but alas got nowhere. So as many moms do with disabled kids, I knew I needed to solve the mystery of my own child; we often know them better than anyone else.

It took time to put the pieces together; and eventually I realized the trigger that set off what we called "the trauma monster." It was when something he loved or greatly admired was destroyed by an evil act inconsistent with his Roman Catholic faith.

His forever all-time favorite place for fun in 1996 and 1997 was the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, including his favorite restaurant, Windows on the World. My then-young son appreciated its artistic grandeur, its height, scope and breadth that conveyed to a struggling multi-disabled child at 10 years old strength, toughness and freedom — just like those solid, architecturally superb buildings.

Just a few short years after that, disaster not only struck America with 9/11. It also had a devastating impact on my son, as he'd been up close and felt personally attached to what he loved so much (architecture) and the World Trade Center in particular. So he almost died from an asthma attack when he saw on the news the footage of the attacks on America. And this was the beginning of my need as a single working mom to learn how to connect the dots of his interior world with a protocol that would break the disaster-trauma cycle by all means necessary.

Related: It Never Occurred to Us to Be Victims: One Mom's Tale

It took time, but I developed my own just-in-case scenario that works to this day to get him up and over "the trauma monster" that has stalked him since that horrific day in 2001.

So when it reared its ugly head after the shooting incident in Arlington, Virginia, in which Rep. Steve Scalise was struck — I followed it to the letter. (click on page 2 for the rest of the story)

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