I awoke today to the horrible news that another mass shooting had occurred in our country, this time in Las Vegas. The headline read “worst in US history since 1949.” My mind immediately began playing quik clips of all the horrors we have witnessed; the Pulse Night Club, the heartbreaking massacre of the children at Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, too many to even wrap my mind around. Never have Thomas Paine’s words rung more true, “these are the times that try men’s souls.”
This is not going to be an op-ed piece about gun control, a diatribe regarding our country’s severe mental health crisis or a political commentary. It is just meant to be a unifying gesture to comfort all of us who sit shocked and powerless, in a world that seems to be feeling more and more like a the set of a bad movie.
I was researching the worst mass shootings, (as if there could be a “best” list). For me, the one that stuck out was Columbine. Even though it was 18 years ago, I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in a bagel shop in Manhattan with my son and his father. We were very excited to be going to the Brazilian Consulate to get visas for a trip to see my family in Brazil. My 5 year old son and I were so excited with the anticipation of our upcoming adventure.
Behind the counter we were sitting at, enjoying our bagels, was a small, old school television. Suddenly the regular programming was interrupted for breaking news, and the details of Columbine began to unfold. I knew in that moment, that life, as we knew it had changed forever. I felt it in my bones. My only child, sitting next to me, would be going off to first grade in several months; something that was supposed to be an exciting milestone. At that moment, all I could think was “he won’t even be safe there.”
The dread that I felt in that moment dissipated, for I knew that I could not send my son off to school every day worrying that some random act of violence would touch his young life. To live in constant fear, is to not live at all. So I put it all in the back of my mind, taking note of the tragedies, but trying with all my faith to believe that this was not going to be an exponentially growing problem. As we all sadly know – I was wrong.
One mass shooting that did NOT make “the worst” list was the shooting in Charleston South Carolina, because “only”nine people were shot and killed there. The young man who murdered these people had sat with them prayed with them for an hour. With great purpose, he shot them one by one as they begged for their lives, reloading five times. He was not randomly attacking people, but like the Pulse shooter, he was full of hate. I just kept thinking, “how can you sit and pray with people, be embraced by them, and then just murder them?” So chillingly calculated.
Today, again, I am left, as we all are, dumbfounded with many questions running through my mind. “How can someone look down on a crowd of revelers, enjoying the most basic of joys; music, and shoot at them as though they were target practice in a game?” It is beyond heartbreaking. I really don’t know how much more our souls can take; we who are not even directly impacted by such violence. Imagine those who are? I still think of the first responders at Sandy Hook. How can they ever get those images of little children and the adults trying to protect them out of their heads? They can’t.
Tomorrow will come posturing on political issues such as gun control and Lord knows what else, but for today, we, as humans, are grieving. We need to do this and then find comfort. Look around and count your blessings. Hug your children, no matter their age, appreciate the people who love you. This is SO painful for all of us, watching this world that has turned into something no one can understand. Only you know what is right for you. If you need to talk to your kids about this, perhaps sit and pray as a family, or have a moment of silence.
This is my condelence letter to the world. I am sorry that things have devolved so greatly. I am so sorry that one cannot go out to have fun with their friends, or sit in a house of worship or movie theatre without the nagging thought that we all have targets on our back. I have no answers, no requests; just nothing, except the collective pain of all the victims weighing on my soul. I know I am not alone in this feeling, so I am reaching out in a feeble attempt to offer comfort where there is none. But know this, you are not alone, what hurts one of us hurts us all. I wish you peace.
© 2017 Charlene Viviano ALL RIGHTS RESERVED