Whitney Reflects on the First Anniversary of the Sept. 6th Shooting

I had very little control over my emotions the week of the anniversary. While I am usually pretty steely, there were many moments where tears would begin to fall no matter how hard I tried to prevent them. I’ll never forget doing a live interview with NPR on September 5th and crying in response to a question about Al. The question caught me off guard and in response, my mind began to wander thinking about how Al truly came out of nowhere to save my life. While there are many heroes from September 6th, Al was the most critical. Without him, I would have died in that revolving door.

Outside of uncontrolled emotion, there was a good bit of anxiety for me. Memories leading up to the day lingered in my brain…

—Saturday September 3, 2018: Waller and I spent the entire day cleaning the new home we had just purchased when we would have preferred a lake trip with the kids.

—Sunday September 2, 2018: The morning sun filled our new kitchen with beautiful natural light as the kids enjoyed homemade waffles that I had made.

Then the work week began and memories are less significant. Except, I vividly recall the school roller skating party the night before the shooting. Every time I hear “Thunder” by the Imagine Dragons it takes me back to that moment where my son is brimming with pride and exhilaration as he independently wheeled around the rink for one of the first times. We were all completely unaware of what was to unfold in the morning.

I’m sure you’ve had this experience. Something significantly painful happens in your life and as you approach the anniversary, you fixate on the events prior. Almost as if you’re trying to remember how good things were before everything changed.

The morning of September 6th this year, Waller and I decided to pull the kids out of school and spend the morning with other survivors and my heroes— Cincinnati Police Officers and University of Cincinnati Hospital staff.

As we approached the start time of the shooting, we were driving through Florence, KY. Silly me, I thought I could convince my kids to have a moment of silence as we remembered the day. And just like that, real-life kicked in. My daughter burst into tears, not because of what happened on September 6th, but because she couldn’t get the show on her iPad to work.


As much as I wanted to be self-reflective and mindful... as much as I wanted that for my children, my daughter reminded me of my blessings. Not, per se, that she whined and fussed about a show (we will continue to work on that behavior), but that I am alive. That I am here to be her mother and to love, discipline, and mold her.

The rest of the morning was perfect. I even tried goetta for the first time at the diner with the officers (and I liked it!). My children met Al for the first time and spent the better part of the breakfast exchanging “meows” with him as they talked about Kitty Al. And at the hospital, we were overwhelmed with warmth as we hugged our way through the many staff members we hadn’t seen since September 6th.

While those officers and hospital staff will go on to have good and bad days in the “office”, I will never stop reminding them that on one day, September 6th, they did everything right for me and that my life should serve as a reminder of their heroic efforts.

It’s hard to describe; but in the days and weeks following the shooting, I felt a sense of human connectedness that I hadn’t experienced before. I thought often, “this is what life is all about”. My most sincere wish is that we will all find our way to a place of gratitude, connectedness, and purpose. And that we will fight our hardest to stay there.

Thank you to all for the prayers, messages, and calls on the anniversary. It meant so much.