The school shooting in Newtown, CT at Sandy Hook Elementary School brought back extremely poignant memories for me.
As some of you may know, I was at Virginia Tech in April 2007 when 32 people, students and faculty, were senselessly murdered in a mass shooting on campus. There are so many things I remember vividly about that day. I remember the weather; cold, more windy than I had ever seen, snow flurries that seemed so late for that time of year. I remember not understanding the magnitude of what had happened until I got home from being evacuated from the campus. I remember being on lock down in my office with my co-workers and any students we found wandering the halls. I remember the phones not working; the cryptic, bare-minimum emails sent out by campus trying to keep us apprised of the situation. And mostly I remember the sadness of the days that followed. The candlelight vigil. The counseling sessions. The reporters randomly stopping you as you tried to go about your day on campus. Learning that a friend was a victim and dealing with the loss. Having the media descend on our small mountain town, making us almost feel trapped, with a giant spotlight on our campus….a spotlight on us as we tried to cope with the sudden, griping loss of so many from our already small community and the feeling of “how could this happen.”
The hardest part about the events of last Friday is the innocence stolen not only from the community but the lives of the children. They never had a chance to live. They never had a chance to see what life could offer and their parents will forever wonder what could have been. My past experiences coupled with my recent parenthood put this tragedy in the forefront of my mind. I thought of my child not having the opportunity to truly live, to have his life stolen in that way is truly unbearable.
What I don’t think I will ever understand is why. The gun debate flared up again, just as it did back in 2007 and with each subsequent mass killing, it will resurface. The real question is will it ever change? Or will, as always, this debate last until the national consciousness moves on to something else and we are back where we started.
The debate is valid and there is no quick and dirty answer to this problem. My husband and I own guns and believe in the right of every American to be able to do so. How do we reconcile our deeply-held beliefs as a country in gun-rights for all with our need for safety from those who aren’t responsible gun owners? How do we police, screen, or better determine who can be trusted and who can’t? Is that possible without taking it all away?
I myself hope that the debate continues. I hope that these tragedies don’t leave our minds so quickly and that we continue to strive to attain a balance of freedom and safety for our fellow Americans, and most importantly our future.