On Wednesday, February 14, 2018 a 19-year-old former student of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida shot and killed 17 people in the most recent school shooting. Our nation is reeling once again. The gun debates, political debates and blame have again been fired up and are playing out on the news and on Twitter, Facebook and every other social media platform you can think of.
Meanwhile, as the nation debates, the families of the victims are wishing they could wake up from this nightmare. The parents are trying to make sense of sending their child to school in the morning only to find s/he has been killed at the very school they chose to send them to. They’re trying to re-trace their steps. Re-question their actions. Re-visit their choices. They’re bursting at the seams trying to contain a rage so intense they can barely speak. While our nation sends prayers, blames parenting, debates gun laws and discusses mental illness, these family members are left with the lifeless bodies of their loved one. As our nation debates, these family members are left to handle pain and grief so deep they can’t imagine making it through the next few days, let alone a lifetime. The parents, spouses, children and friends of those killed are painfully just trying to breathe.
While the world debates, these parents remind themselves to stand—to do whatever it takes to make it through the day. They work with every fiber of their being to be there to support their other children—who are also reeling. While our nation debates, these family members are trying to explain to their loved ones why Daddy, sister or brother isn’t coming home again. The families of the victims will have to grapple with their pain, loss and rage long after our world has finished debating and arguing and, once again, has done nothing about finding answers to this life-altering problem. The families will never forget. Our world will forever have to be reminded.
As you go through your day, remember the victims. Their pain and suffering is beyond what any one of us—least of all children—should ever have to experience. Debating issues will not bring their loved ones back. Blaming laws, parents, governments or institutions will not save their loved one or protect yours going forward. School shootings are complex. There are many factors that come into play. Debating the issues is great—if the conversations lead to solutions. Perhaps if we remember the pain these families have to endure, we may be more motivated to act rather than just speak. Yes, we need big changes and we also need all of us to make day-to-day changes. Start anywhere—but start. Be kind. Lend a helping hand. Show up. Recognize when others are struggling and reach out or say something to someone. Look into changing laws, sign petitions, run for office, raise money or come up with solutions. When all of us do something, we can make a difference. When our nation debates and then moves on, we are simply biding time until the next school shooting.
Challenge: As you debate and send these families your thoughts and prayers, remember that, first and foremost, we need to find ways to actively stop these catastrophes from happening again. Find your place to be a part of the solution.