“Pop, pop, pop.”
“The woman was in close vicinity to the shooting, which happened in the hallway, according to Ms. Artley. ‘She described it as a ‘Pop, pop, pop,” Ms Artley added.” From “Multiple Fatalities Reported in Shooting at Connecticut Elementary School,” December 14, 2012.
“An employee named Logan works with his fiancé at a pet shop in the mall. They said it was confusing and terrifying because they had no idea exactly where the shooter was. ‘I just heard ‘pop, pop, pop’ and saw my coworkers running into the back room,’ Logan said.” From “Witnesses Describe Terror of Oregon Shooting,” December 11, 2012.
“Jim Haase was just getting off the phone after making Sunday lunch plans with a friend when he heard a distinctive ‘pop pop pop’ coming from the direction of the Sikh Temple about 300 yards north of his Oak Creek home.” From “Neighbor: ‘I kept talking to him to make sure he was conscious,’” August 5, 2012.
“Quentin Caldwell, who told CNN he was in a nearby theater at the time of the shooting, said he saw bullets come through the wall and just heard ‘a pop, pop, pop, pop.’” From “Colorado Movie Massacre,” July 22, 2012.
“Lawrence says he looked down at his phone for a moment. Then he heard a ‘pop, pop, and people scrambling. I could’t make sense of it. I didn’t expect the gun to be that quiet. I thought, this is really happening.’” From “Cafe Racer Survivor Describes Massacre,”May 31, 2012.
“Ron Sesler was working the lunch rush at his steakhouse just blocks from the beach in this seaside town when he heard a rapid ‘pop, pop, pop’ sound that he at first thought was construction noise.” From “Witnesses describe chaos of Calif. salon shooting,” October 13, 2011.
How does one describe a horrific scene that unfolds with the rapid ease modern weaponry provides? But despite the absolute horror, the situation is not unimaginable, because it happens again and again. We have a set of language provided for us. The same course of action plays out after each event. (‘Action’ being limited to speculating over motivation and the important yet often still shortsighted work of mourning.)
The descriptive “pop, pop, pop” returns again and again with a disturbing familiarity. Its repetition isn’t necessarily journalists’ sole fault: despite the incredible desire for it, information is limited in the immediate aftermath of these events, and furthermore, these occurrences seem so often the same. What new is there to say?
If only we could stop believing these events to be essentially aberrant. If only we, as a society, did not immediate capitulate to the pessimism of inevitability.