Las Vegas Mass Shooting Horror

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


Why the police are not the problem.

If the internet has done anything, it has brought to the forefront of our collective consciousness’ the many serious problems in the world and particularly in our country. The problem with the internet is that it has become a money machine, so the things that are going to procure the most attention ($) is what is often at the forefront. Thanks to social media, a lot of miss information is spread, and depending on the incidents that are filmed and shared, often for shock value, it is doing more harm than good. People become outraged after only seeing one side of a story, which often is carefully taken out of context or edited to suit the posters agenda. This is dangerous, because it is so easy to incite mass hysteria, when clearly calmer heads need to reign, now more than ever.

Last night, SIX police officers were shot in this country, one fatally, one gravely, two “with a long way to recover” and two are said to be in stable condition. And yet – the internet is not broken with outrage – they were just doing their jobs. Like they always do. If you research the stories, you will see that the suspects in two of the incidents drew their weapons first, and then the police returned fire. In the saddest story, a young husband and father of 4, working in an area where even Fedex and the Post office are fearful to enter, approached several suspects on the street with his partner. He did not have his gun drawn or appear to be a threat in any way.  He was shot at close range, as was his partner, before they could even reach for their weapons.

Thousands of police officers have to make choices like this a million times in their careers. It is a difficult and often thankless job. Ironically, as much as those who loathe law enforcement, if they were in danger, I am sure 911 would be their first call. Perhaps this story could have had a different ending, one that would have received much more press coverage. But it didn’t, and now Officer Baxter leaves a wife and fellow officer behind, as well as 4 small children. His partner is fighting for his life, and not expected to make it. His brothers and sisters in blue have to swallow their grief and continue to protect a dangerous community, while at the same time receiving death threats.

We can hate. It’s so easy to hate, to blame, to point fingers; release our rage and encourage violence. It is pretty clear that that will not change anything. We have grown away from being a solution oriented society to one that is so divided, we can’t even think straight. We have been faced with many disillusioning realities over the past two decades. But we need to seriously ask ourselves, are all priests pedophiles? After 911, are all Muslims terrorists? Are all Italians involved in illegal activities? Are all police officers bigotted bullies? (Honestly, most just want to go home to their families at the end of the day and live long enough to retire). In every group there is going to be a subgroup of bad apples. The question is, how do we deal with these situations effectively? The war on Law Enforcement is clearly SO counterproductive, even if you have a low opinion of them. Their job is so important to all of us, especially in these times, when they have to not only protect their municipalities, but in some large cities, the safety of the entire country can rest on their shoulders.

As humans, we do not always handle things in the most rational effective way, especially when we are personally hurt or grieving. If there is, in fact a problem in a  particular police department, (and you can’t lump them all into the same category) then it has to be dealt with. There are experts who know this better than I, but sensitivity training, counseling, reprimands, whatever tools are successful should be implemented. In cases where a police officer makes a mistake or is blatantly wrong, it is up to the judicial system to hold them to task. The entire Law Enforcement community is not to blame, and to do so is a grave mistake, because like it or not, we NEED them.

Last night we lost “one of the good ones.” And I don’t just mean a cop. By all accounts he was an incredible man, in the prime of his life, who could have potentially offered so much to this world. He was just “doing his job.” It is not trending on twitter, it is not the “hot topic” of the day. Even the fact that SIX officers were shot last night, all of them acting appropriately in life threatening situations, is not causing the incredible stir that it should; raising a million red flags. Where are their rights?

I encourage everyone to take time to really think about what is happening in our society. This is the world we will leave behind for our children and grandchildren. Violence and hatred has never solved anything during any time of history. Let’s become a solution oriented society, a loving society. Let’s somehow put aside our differences and join together to find hope. It is honestly the only chance we have.

NOTE: From the time I started writing this – to the time my editor read it – the second Kissimme officer succumbed to his injuries – my prayers to both Familys and the entire Kissimme Police Department.



Reprinted by permission