47 Seconds



Download Full Text (51.1 MB)

Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Mary Ann Cain


Department of English and Linguistics

Sponsor Department/Program

Department of English and Linguistics


47 Seconds is a fictional story focusing on police shooting between a white officer and black victim. It is meant to mirror current events but is not based on any particular one. The purpose of this story is to illustrate how these tragic events affect the lives of everyone involved. It offers possible reasons for why an officer may shoot a suspect. The intent of the story is to prompt the reader into giving more consideration to those reasons before passing judgement. The idea came from an assignment to write a short story with relevance to current culture or events. I wanted a familiar topic that would resonate with readers. While most would not have personal experience with a police shooting, they would be aware of them. Before I began, I looked at some of the most visible examples of police shootings and considered why they received so much attention. The ones that garnered the most scrutiny often involved a black suspect and white officer. Shootings such as Terence Crutcher of Tulsa, William Chapman of Portsmouth, and Sylville Smith of Milwaukee served as grim inspiration for this piece. Each situation varied greatly but the outcome was the same. Race seemed to be an important factor relating to the attention these shootings received. For that reason I considered several different roles and narrative arcs involving race. Initially, I considered a black officer and white victim to show the inverse of the idea that black suspects are much more likely to be shot than white suspects. It felt less impactful and relevant because whites are not perceived as being discriminated against. An event mirroring current issues carried more weight. Using the inverse of the current events, a black officer and white victim, felt like I was trying to promote the idea that these shootings happen to everyone and aren’t an issue. That wasn’t what I wanted to convey and seemed likely to alienate and further polarize readers. By choosing details mirroring current events and then showing that event from a different angle, I hoped to lessen the divide and inspire more understanding in the reader. I wanted to show the weight of taking a life, regardless of race. The fatal encounter was left until the latter portion of the story to keep the focus on the officer instead of the shooting. The focus is often on the person who is shot and the person who pulled the trigger is viewed as a perpetrator. I wanted to illuminate how convoluted the idea of the victim actually is in these situations. It isn’t meant to detract from the tragedy of these events but amplify it. Most officers don’t want to take a life anymore than someone wants to lose theirs. The outcome of these situations can be hard to comprehend. When race is involved, it can become an easy scapegoat. I wanted this story to convey that idea and show how tragic these events can truly be for everyone involved.


English Language and Literature

47 Seconds