It’s Easter tomorrow for those who practice the Christian faith. It’s also the Passover season for Jews. What will the victims and survivors of the Virginia Tech shooting be doing and thinking about on the 10 year anniversary of what was our nation’s most deadly and heinous mass shooting until the Sandy Hook shooting took the lives of 20 first graders and 6 educators and the Orlando nightclub shooting took the lives of 50- yes 50 innocent Americans?
When will we ever learn?
The grief of the Virginia Tech shooting victims is matched by the grief of 90 families a day after a gunshot injury became a gun death due to homicide, suicide or an “accidental” gun discharge. This is the daily carnage and the daily news in America in spite of holidays, families pleading for common sense and brave elected leaders willing to stand up to the corporate gun lobby and demand that the devastation be, at the least, reduced and at the most prevented.
We know there is no way to stop all shootings but shouldn’t we at least try? When a public health epidemic that takes the lives of so many people every year (32,000-33,000) we always get busy to study why and then recommend changes or cures that can prevent the cause of the disease or cause of death.
In America, instead, we are making things worse by loosening gun laws at the state and federal level. Why? Good question. I don’t really believe that the gun lobby wants people to die. They couldn’t could they? They must be affected by the photos and videos of all of the shootings that take place on a regular basis everywhere.
So why do they resist gun safety reform and efforts to prevent shootings so vigorously?
It’s a question that we must ask and it needs an answer.
Meanwhile, while we are trying to figure out how to work around the money and profits of the gun industry and the outsized power of the NRA and other organizations, mass shootings continue unabated:
Perhaps because Virginia Tech’s fatality count was so high, most of the school shootings that followed didn’t receive the attention they might have in the decade prior to the massacre.
Are these kinds of shooting becoming normalized to the public or is it they don’t want to hear about them because they feel helpless to do anything about them? They are NOT normal and we can’t let them become normal. It is simply not normal for someone to walk into a school and spray bullets around killing random, or sometimes, selected victims.
And of course, the “everyday” shootings happen without much media coverage and every day, ordinary people’s lives are changed forever. You may know some of these people. They are living close to you- in your neighborhoods and communities. They are remembering lost loved ones every day. This is not normal.
Memorials to victims have become normal. Flowers, candles, teddy bears, hearts, cards, bell ringings, stones.
Memorials sprout up all over the country. In the case of Virginia Tech it was stones. From the article in The Trace:
Without realizing it, the kids at Virginia Tech were propelled by the same instinct that leaves mourners in America’s cities searching their surroundings for a way to honor shooting victims whose deaths often go unnoticed outside their neighborhoods. In Lexington, Kentucky, last fall, high schoolers laced track shoes to a chain link fence in homage to a slain 15-year-old runner, Trinity Gay. After a homicide in New York City, lampposts sprouted roses and sidewalks glittered with liquor bottles. In Cincinnati, a menagerie of stuffed animals was deployed to guard the home of a 9-year-old. (…)
The permanent memorial was dedicated with a ceremony on August 19, 2007, four months and three days after the massacre. Thousands of people gathered on the lawn that day, sporting their Hokie colors of maroon and orange. The university president spoke. A bell tolled 32 times. Each original stone had been placed in a mahogany box with a hinged lid, like a miniature coffin. Later, the boxes would be delivered to the families of the victims.
Uma Loganathan can hardly remember the dedication; grief seems to have blurred many of her memories from that time. What she does remember is that first semicircle of stones set earnestly upon the grass, their rough edges befitting of her sorrow.
“Befitting of her sorrow”…. Can anything befit the sorrow we all feel after losing a loved one to gun violence? Or having a close call as did my friend Lori Hass, mother of a Virginia Tech survivor?
Like other survivors, I got into this GVP movement because of what happened. But that’s in the past and what we’re working for is a future where there’s less gun violence and where we’re doing more to prevent it. Our goals are to take the evidence and the policies that work and begin to apply as many as are appropriate. For example, we understand that domestic violence situations become exponentially more lethal when there’s a firearm introduced. Road rage with a firearm can turn lethal. Confrontation in the streets become lethal when there’s a firearm. Toddlers have killed more Americans than terrorists if you look at the numbers over time — all because somebody was careless and left firearms out and unsecured.
We want policies that make us all safer. We think domestic abusers shouldn’t have access to guns. We think that there should be a background check on all buyers — how do you stop a prohibited buyer from purchasing a gun if you don’t do a background check to figure out if he or she is prohibited? We believe that you should have to have hands-on training around concealed carry. We think there should be penalties so that gun owners must properly store and secure their firearms so that children can’t get access to them. We think there should be limitations on the type of firepower that everyday citizens can carry on our street. The efficacy of a lot of those policies have been proven in other states and those states have fewer deaths. New York’s gun death rate per 100,000 is in the low, low single digits. Virginia’s is 10.9.
It’s devastating for all of the families, me included, to relive the trauma each time another school shooting occurs. And you can’t help but relive it. What we’re also really traumatized by is the fact that someone else is now added to the club nobody wants to be in: the one where your loved one’s been shot and killed or injured. But [that] club is strong, the club is active, the club is compassionate and supportive. I know dozens of families from dozens of mass shootings. Every day we have gun violence in America, so there is a camaraderie that’s very understood by those [who have experienced it].
Ten years ago tomorrow, the feelings will re-emerge of how things went down that day ten years ago. Lori gives a very moving testimony to how one family experienced the horrendous shooting of 32.
Tomorrow will also be Easter. A stone figures prominently in the Easter story. Stones can be moved but they are hard to move and they are hard to destroy. Tombstones are made of stone for a reason. They signify a marker where a loved one is buried and they are there mostly forever. So are the memories of our lost loved ones.
Tomorrow, please remember these 32. See their photos. Say their names.
We Will Not Forget
- Ross A. Alameddine
- Christopher James Bishop
- Brian R. Bluhm
- Ryan Christopher Clark
- Austin Michelle Cloyd
- Jocelyne Couture-Nowak
- Kevin P. Granata
- Matthew Gregory Gwaltney
- Caitlin Millar Hammaren
- Jeremy Michael Herbstritt
- Rachael Elizabeth Hill
- Emily Jane Hilscher
- Jarrett Lee Lane
- Matthew Joseph La Porte
- Henry J. Lee
- Liviu Librescu
- G.V. Loganathan
- Partahi Mamora Halomoan Lumbantoruan
- Lauren Ashley McCain
- Daniel Patrick O’Neil
- Juan Ramon Ortiz-Ortiz
- Minal Hiralal Panchal
- Daniel Alejandro Perez Cueva
- Erin Nicole Peterson
- Michael Steven Pohle, Jr.
- Julia Kathleen Pryde
- Mary Karen Read
- Reema Joseph Samaha
- Waleed Mohamed Shaalan
- Leslie Geraldine Sherman
- Maxine Shelly Turner
- Nicole Regina White
And then work with Lori Hass, Colin Goddard, Andy Goddard and the millions of us involved in preventing the next one of these shootings. Colin has been an advocate for gun violence prevention since he was shot and injured in the shooting. The film, Living for 32, features Colin’s story and his efforts to expose the lack of Brady background checks on all gun sales.
We should not have to erect stone memorials to victims. We should not have to move stones to get the attention of the public and elected leaders about our deadly gun violence epidemic. We should expect that our leaders do this without question in the name of the victims and common sense. If we are to change the conversation and change the culture, we need more than memorials, thoughts, prayers, flowers, etc.
WE NEED ACTION. Get involved in the name of the victims and just because losing 90 Americans a day to gunshot injuries is not normal and not acceptable. Let’s get to work.