Sitting at my desk at work when I first heard about the Virginia Tech shooting, I began crying. I later sat at the same desk crying as I looked at the faces of the victims and read about their lives. My intent was to give them more attention than the shooter. Driving to pick up my son from school after hearing about the shooting at Sandy Hook, I could barely see straight. He was close to the age of the victims and I couldn’t fathom how it could have happened. Again, I read about the victims, wanting to pay them and their families the respect of remembering and honoring those lives that were violently ended.
When I heard of the shooting in Orlando, I first saw a headline in my Facebook feed. I wasn’t ready to read it. The news was still fresh – information developing. I shut it off until I could bring myself to read it. Later, I read a little more but still wasn’t able to process it. I don’t know if I have yet been able to process this. I have such a heavy heart and in a few years, I will likely look back and add this too the list of moments when I reacted after a mass shooting. I’ll remember writing this out in a blog post because I have so much sadness that it had no where else to go but into these words that I am sharing. I’ll remember doing the same thing – reading about the victims, although it will surely make me sob. I’ve started reading some of the stories and will continue. I do it because they deserve to have their stories heard, they deserve to be remembered, to be honored.
I have the luxury of tuning this whole thing out when and if I choose. But there are so many that cannot look away. It is personal. It is their story. It could have been them. It was their brother, their cousin, their friend, their daughter. But in all reality, it could have been any of us. I feel helpless and hopeless. And I ask myself what I can do, and what can I contribute. I see acts of kindness, donations of blood, donations of money but I still feel a sadness that has yet to leave. And I think that I can’t shake it because it keeps happening. Each time I think, surely, this will be the time, this will be the event that will unite our country in an effort to prevent gun violence. Already, I see people posting defensive gun rights statements. Can’t we mourn for those who have been slain before I read about how evil people would still kill, that guns aren’t the problem? To reduce what has happened into a meme that taking away guns will not solve the problem makes me even more disheartened. A violent storm of hate was unleashed on innocent lives and immediately people are on the defensive over the weapon that was used to do this. Can we not shut our eyes and plug our ears and say, “I can’t hear you” until the next tragedy occurs? Can we engage in a conversation? Can we listen to each other?
I ask myself even more questions. Will this turn someone away from hate? Will this make someone think twice before condemning someone for being gay? Will this shooting help us take the hate that was bottled up and unleashed in Orlando and turn us toward being a more loving and peaceful country?
It’s no longer the time when my son doesn’t understand what is on the news. He sees it. He asks why. And I’m at a loss to explain the why. I can’t explain why because I don’t know the answer. Yes, we can #prayfororlando, but let’s act in honor of Orlando. Each of us can find a way. I can do teach my children respect for others, for human lives. I can live a life I want my children to emulate showing love for others. I can serve others and be kind. I can show and teach my children that in honor of those lives lost, we can use our love as a small and simple way to overcome fear and hatred. And although my hope seemed to flicker and fade in the wake of this news, acting upon those intrinsic feelings to show more love will ignite that hope to burn brightly again.