It’s a beautiful sunny afternoon. It’s Valentine’s Day and your shift is just about over. Your thoughts are on sharing some simple tokens commemorating the day with your family and reading the hand-made cards your kids always make for you each year. It’s one of those simple traditions that you embrace and hold dear. But then, the unthinkable-that phone call you always heard about but hoped to never receive. There has been a shooting at your child’s school and you need to pick them up at a designated safe place as soon as possible. You leave without even clocking out and rush to the scene while battling the invasion of images from similar events that have played out before, and praying with all your might that your child is safe and waiting for your arrival.
The first bus of students arrives at the designated rendezvous sight and you anxiously wait for your child to exit. They aren’t on this bus but that’s ok-it’s a large school and it may take several busses to vacate them all from campus. The second bus arrives but they aren’t on that one either. Then the third, the fourth, and so on until all the students have been located and reunited with their families…except your child. There must be another explanation, you tell yourself-maybe they escaped into a local neighborhood or retail store and are on their way home. But, there is no response to your calls or texts. Perhaps in a panic they dropped their phone-it’s ok-surely they are safe someplace and just need to be picked up. You wait-you pace-you talk to your child’s classmates to see if they know anything. One of them breaks into uncontrolled sobbing as they try to utter the words, “they are still in there”! Your day, your life, your entire universe just changed forever. Your child isn’t coming home today.
I have tried to put myself in the shoes of a parent living out this nightmare as yet another tragic school shooting unfolds. I can’t comprehend the emotional trauma of losing a child to such a senseless act of cowardice and evil at the hands of a person who is less than human and has no business carrying a weapon onto a school campus. Whenever possible I strive to use my blog to encourage others with positive words of hope as we all deal with real-life challenges and tragedies we can’t adequately explain. But on days like today, even a writer and artist of written expression has no words that will make any sense or remove any of the thousands of tears that will be shed over the coming days. As a resident of Las Vegas and witness to our own similar mass shooting just last October, my heart goes out to the families, the friends, the first responders and all who are and will be forever changed by yesterday’s malicious and hateful act of evil.
I’m haunted and troubled by the early reports that the unnamed gunman had been reported to authorities on more than one occasion prior to yesterday’s attack. I’m haunted and troubled that social media posts from this person showing guns, hate symbols and red-flag signals were ignored or unreported by the usually vigilant social media police. I’m haunted and troubled that in an age where we have already seen 18 school shootings since the beginning of 2018, not even two months, that anyone could have walked onto a school campus in any city America with an AR-15 Assault rifle, entirely unnoticed and unchallenged. And I’m haunted and troubled by a society whose cries for tolerance and rights and political correctness are given more consideration than the cries of grieving parents or their lost children, who although born with the same rights, will never appreciate or experience their individual liberties because we adults did a poor job of protecting the defenseless.
I don’t want to use my blog for this purpose-there is enough sadness and grief in our world to have to stop and address this, but today I am compelled to lend my small voice to advocate for my grandchildren, your children and grandchildren-our kids. We will have our moments of silence for the departed, we will offer our “thoughts and prayers” like a “God bless you” after a sneeze-we will pretend to hold special meetings behind closed doors in an appearance of real concern or policy change, but nothing – absolutely nothing will be done to protect our children. Profit trumps controls; rights trump accountability; civil liberties trump common-sense safety measures; lobbyists trump grieving family members; fear of being labeled as a hater trumps fear of loss of life due to inaction or alerts, and the beat goes on. If the blood-bathed bodies of dead first-graders resulted in non-action, we have become no better than the worst third-world terrorist country. God helps us.
And yet there must be some words we can cling to in these times of senseless tragedy. In the Biblical book of John, Jesus is called to the tomb of his departed friend Lazarus. Jesus knows that he held the power of life and death in his divine hands and that his friend was going to miraculously live again. And yet we are told in the passage that when Jesus saw the sorrow and the tears of friends and loved ones mourning over the death of Lazarus, he too wept with them. Jesus was deeply moved at the brokenhearted cries of mourning that resulted from earthly death. I am convinced that he still mourns with us and indeed is shedding tears even now as he welcomes many of these victims into paradise but sees and hears the tears of those they left behind. There is little else we can hold onto in times like these when words and expressions are woefully inadequate and ineffective. We are to mourn with those who mourn, and to comfort those with the same comfort we have received, and we are to fervently pray for all who are affected by this, another unexplainable tragedy. The peace and solace that these grieving families need today and over the next few difficult weeks can only come from God, who sees our tears and mends broken hearts. But, it’s time we force our leaders to hear our cries for radical change. If I have to go through a metal detector to go to a club, a government building, an airport or even a local high school football game, our school campuses where our children attend each day should be no less safe and monitored. We need to scream over the voices that would silence us so that we can look forward to and expect the safe return of our kids at the end of any school day in America. We need to put names and faces with the victims so that they are more than just a meaningless statistic. We need to view these victim lists as if the name of our own children are among them and act and respond accordingly. It’s not someone else’s problem-it doesn’t happen just in Detroit or Chicago or Vegas or LA. Please, please, stand up for our children-the lives we save may be those who share our own last names!
Father, we humbly and sorrowfully implore you today to comfort the grieving families and friends of all affected by yesterday’s events, and to compel us to take action in protecting your children.