From the safety of my home in Philadelphia I watch the news of the Las Vegas shooting unfold on my TV. I whisper a prayer for the families then try to push them from my mind. I cannot bear to think of them—someone’s child, partner, friend, sibling, lover. If I think of them I will think of their loved ones—their loss, their grief, their pain. If I think of their loved ones I will think of my own—my brothers, my parents, my friends. I cannot bear to imagine losing them.
I know not to focus on the victims because I have been here before: sitting on my couch and reeling from an unimaginable act of violence. Manchester. Orlando. Paris. Virginia Tech. Syria. Yemen. Sandy Hook. Columbine. So many others. I know from experience that if I focus on the victims I will be paralysed with grief.
We cannot afford to be paralysed right now. We have too much work to do. We have to find a way to eliminate gun violence. We have to increase our access to mental health services and decrease the stigma of using them. We have to stop calling brown shooters terrorists and white shooters mentally ill. We have to make our societies more welcoming to everyone so that we are not targets for terrorism. We have to be kind.
It seems appropriate to quote a country song since the victims of the Las Vegas shooting were attending a country music festival. Alan Jackson wrote a gut-wrenchingly honest song after 9/11 which is sadly applicable 16 years later. Where Were You (when the world stopped turning):
Did you turn off that violent old movie you're watchin'
And turn on I Love Lucy reruns?
Did you go to a church and hold hands with some strangers
Stand in line to give your own blood?
Did you just stay home and cling tight to your family
Thank God you had somebody to love?
I encourage everyone to hug their loved ones. Think of the victims and their families in whatever way you are able (prayer, good thoughts, meditation). Take the day to think about the kind of world you want to live in. And then tomorrow start making that world.
Article by Claire E. Ryder
Director of Refugee and Immigration Affairs
Women's March PA