I used to throw the acronym FML out on social media like confetti at a party. I believed—like so many others—that a bad day at work, or the end of a relationship somehow warranted that crass description of my life. I was as clueless as the next person as to just how catastrophic my life could become in the blink of an eye. Now I know. A crazy man clued in me very well, and he did so within mere seconds. If I’d been telling you this while he was emptying his high-powered rifle that day in the lab, he would’ve finished before I got those first few words out of my mouth.
My name is Josey Varvatos. Unfortunately, I'm not related to the famous fashion designer from Detroit who shares my last name. . .a name which I explain the correct pronunciation of almost daily. I’m pretty sure I’ve enunciated Jo-zee Var-Vatos at least five-thousand times since kindergarten. In light of current events, I’m just as certain I’ll hear my name mangled many more times in the near future.
As usual, my thoughts are wandering. This is happening too often recently. I know my mind isn’t as clear since all of the bad things happened. Especially when it comes to organizing my thought process. My doctors all agree that it’s a result of post-traumatic stress disorder, coupled with the pain meds I seem to be eating every two-to-three hours. I guess they do numb most of my physical pain; however, every time I pop one of the damn things in my mouth, I hate the man who is responsible for the inescapable pain in my soul a little more.
The incident, which has been dubbed “The Massacre at Spring Point Labs,” happened six months ago almost to the day. On January fifth, a crazy man changed me forever.
If the part of my brain which controls my long term memory isn’t still lying to me, it was just another Wednesday afternoon in the laboratory. Even though I guess that statement isn’t really true, because there are no normal days in a lab which deals in biohazardous materials. The lab where I worked was in the heart of downtown New Orleans. I used to love working in the city because it is a beautiful place, to say the least. Full of culture and rich in history. Even Hurricane Katrina wasn't powerful enough to destroy my town completely. The same way Thomas Moore’s bullets weren't powerful enough to destroy me completely.
I remember my day starting out just like all my other days did in the lab. I was making my rounds and checking all the labels to make sure everything was correct on the vacutainers—more commonly known as tubes filled with samples of blood. After verifying all of the information, my next task would have been to transfer them into the centrifuge for the separation process. However, I never got that far. I still wonder how much blood from other people ended up on me, or even mixed with my own after it all happened. I also wonder why the HIV, and Hepatitis tests I get to endure for the next year are not among my main worries. I’m almost positive that a fate much worse awaits me.
I don't understand how Mr. Moore made his way through such a well-populated building without being detected. They told me he wasn’t even questioned until he reached the small help desk which faced the doors to the lab. One of the three eye witnesses stated to the detectives that she yelled at him just before she saw him pulling the gun from his overcoat. She said he never hesitated as he flung open the doors to the room and began firing at anything, and everyone inside. In less than one minute, he killed seven of the eight people who were working in the lab that day. I can still see his face as he turned to where I was crouched down in a corner located in the rear part of the room. He moved toward me, and I remember thinking, He isn't human, because humans don't do this. . .it was a naive thought, I know. As he approached me, I remember standing up and screaming, “Why are you doing this?”
He raised his weapon and said two words, which will remain in my mind forever.
Seconds before he started to fire his weapon at me, my mind recalled something I heard my grandfather tell my younger brother once: duck and cover. I can’t explain how, but I took it to mean cover your head, and so I did. The doctors say it saved my life. However, my right forearm and left hand will never be one- hundred percent again.
His first bullet hit my right forearm, tearing through flesh and shredding tendons and muscle. It lodged—by the grace of God—in the radius bone in that part of my forearm. The doctors say it stopped that bullet from going straight through and into my frontal lobe. My orthopedic surgeon swears I must have bones made of steel.
I was wearing a ring that day on my left middle finger. It's a large butterfly crafted of pure silver, which was made for me from my grandfather's silver medallion he found while fighting in World War II. In the aftermath of the shootings, I felt a strange feeling of gratefulness when I saw that the second bullet hadn’t hit the ring. After all, it’s the only thing I have left of my granddad.
That second bullet traveled through my hand, severely damaging some tendons and three of my five metacarpals. It then grazed the top of my scalp by my right temple and burrowed into the wall behind me like some evil vermin. His third bullet grazed my right shoulder doing only minimal damage. The fourth and final bullet. . .well, I thank God he fired it into his own mouth. I watched in some kind of slow motion that my eyes created for me as Thomas Moore’s brain matter, blood, and tissue splattered everywhere—including all over me. I was conscious for all of this. My mind will never erase how my madman looked lying there with the top part of his face and head in a mangled, shredded mess. It was a sight that even the goriest of zombie flicks can’t mimic. All I remember after seeing him lying there, was complete darkness enveloping me. The next thing I remember, was waking up in the hospital, clueless as to just how much worse my life was about to get.