I’ve thought long and hard about this week—a week that came on the heels of several others that were difficult at best and heart-breaking at their worst. On a personal level I’ve watched as classmates, co-workers, and friends buried people they loved. I’ve watched as families came to us after losing so much already, only to suffer loss again. Several of those I had personally helped over the years; it’s hard now to watch as their families are forced to bid them good-bye. But at the end of our local losses and the personal farewells loomed greater tragedies waiting to unfold . . . and with each one came the stark reminder of so many that have come before . . .
I’m sure on July 20, 2012 when the theater filled for a showing of The Dark Knight Rises, the people of Aurora, Colorado had no idea that within minutes twelve of their number would die.
I’m sure the parents of Sandy Hook never considered, as they sent their six and seven year olds to school the morning of December 14, 2012, that 20 of them would never return—20 six and seven year olds—and that six of their teachers and administrators would die trying to protect them. Never again would they be allowed to tuck their children in, to kiss them goodnight, to tell them they loved them and to hear that in return.
I’m sure the folks entering Pulse Night Club the evening of June 12, 2016 never dreamed that Death would claim 49 of them by the hand of a deranged gunman . . . or that 58 people attending a music festival in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017 would perish—and 422 others would be shot.
I’m sure the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida thought Valentine’s Day in 2108 would be like any other, filled with romance and homework. But 17 students never left the school alive.
And this weekend . . . I’m sure the families shopping at the Wal-Mart in El Paso never . . . never believed that a shooter would enter the store and take 22 lives. Just like the people enjoying their evening at Ned Peppers Bar in Dayton, Ohio never once thought it would be their last night on this earth. Nine of them perished, including the shooter’s sister and the friend that had accompanied them to the bar.
Have I told you anything you didn’t already know? No. Have I left out an abundance of other tragedies that are equally horrific, that equally defy comprehension? Sadly, yes. Throughout this past weekend, one individual has, for me at least, personified everything I have just detailed. His name is Paul Anchondo. He is two months old. His father died shielding his mother from the hail of bullets that filled Store 2201 in El Paso. His mother died shielding him. Let that picture form in your mind. This child . . . this infant who will have no knowledge of what happened, no memory of the devastation of that day, will also have no memory of his own parents—the people who died protecting him. But, unless drastic changes are made, he will grow up in a world where this type of mass murder, already commonplace, will only continue to escalate.
There are important lessons to be learned from the tragedies that fill our world, two of which immediately come to mind. One . . . we never know. When we leave home in the morning, when we send our children to school or our spouses to work or basically anyone, anywhere, we never know what waits for them on the other side of the door. Two . . . we may not be able to change the situation overnight but there are steps we can and must take to prevent the indiscriminate taking of innocent life. When society is forced to quantify death to determine if it qualifies as a “mass shooting”—which, by the way, is four or more people shot . . . not killed, just shot—then our society has a problem. When nine people die in a church in South Carolina and 26 people die while worshipping in Sutherland Springs, Texas, our society has a problem.
But for now, we’ll lower the flags to half-staff . . . again. We’ll send our thoughts and prayers and condolences . . . again. We’ll learn about the victims and the families they leave behind . . . again. We’ll look to our leaders for action . . . again. And if we don’t fight for change then history will repeat itself . . . again.